Help people plan ahead for MNsure

  • Article by: TARA MACK and JOE HOPPE
  • Updated: June 20, 2014 - 6:18 PM

Why not release premium rates early, as was done last year?

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In the recent article “95% of Minnesotans now have health insurance,” Gov. Mark Dayton stated: “People who have been knocking [MNsure] the whole time really now need to look at the facts. This has been tremendously successful and it’s going to get better.”

While we admire the governor’s optimism, if he and executives from Minnesota’s Obamacare website, MNsure, really believe this program will improve, it’s time for transparency about what insurance premiums will cost Minnesota families and small businesses next year.

In 2013, Dayton’s administration and insurance companies worked to release plan details a month before open enrollment. This gave people an idea of what to expect before shopping on MNsure, and consumers had three months to find, select and purchase a plan.

This year Minnesotans won’t know the price of plans until MNsure’s next enrollment period begins on Nov. 15. They’ll have just four weeks to find a plan and complete enrollment.

State health and insurance officials agreed last year that a preview period was a positive step. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said releasing rates early “increases transparency and allows individuals, families and small businesses more time to consider the options that will be available on MNsure.” MNsure Chairman Brian Beutner said: “The sooner that you can get concrete information … out is going to allow people to actually make some decisions — as opposed to generalized information.”

So why aren’t the Dayton administration and MNsure pushing for an early rate release again this year?

It’s possible that those who built MNsure are afraid voters will see how much their insurance costs are going up before the election.

DFL state leaders are touting that Minnesota has one of the lowest insurance exchange premium rates in the nation. But the number that matters is not what people are paying in Kentucky; it’s what you paid last year, compared with what you’re paying now or next year.

The Dayton administration’s own economists said MNsure and Obamacare will increase insurance costs in Minnesota by as much as 30 percent. A different report published recently from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research shows that the price of premiums in Minnesota has increased on average by 47 percent after the implementation of Obamacare.

And for women in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota — well, they lead the nation and have seen their average insurance costs increase by 200 percent.

With health insurance costs increasing, it’s no wonder that DFLers in the House blocked amendments earlier this year that would have allowed the public to preview new MNsure rates early.

But why is the cost of your insurance going up?

In addition to Obamacare mandates, far fewer young people enrolled through MNsure than the goal set by the federal government, and 85 percent fewer people enrolled in commercial insurance through MNsure than originally projected.

Premium taxes on commercial insurance plans are how MNsure funds itself going forward, and to remain temporarily afloat with such low enrollment, the MNsure board has already increased the tax on premiums by 133 percent, while beginning to explore new revenue sources.

Additionally, the high-risk insurance pool is being phased out at the end of the year because of Obamacare, and those people will be transitioned onto MNsure.

That pool, MCHA, was helping people with serious medical conditions obtain insurance at below-market prices, and Obamacare forces them into an insurance market that may not provide access to the right doctors, procedures or prescriptions — raising everyone’s rates as a result.

We know Minnesotans are smart shoppers who not only look for the best price, but for the best value for themselves and their families. With only four weeks to complete open enrollment, why not give people extra time to inform themselves about the options and budget for increased costs?

Minnesotans deserve real transparency about Obamacare in Minnesota. We believe that the governor and MNsure officials should protect consumers and release insurance rates early — before open enrollment and before the election.

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