As an initial supporter excited over the possibilities and promise of health care exchanges, I have no choice after reading Friday’s premium hike news (“Self-insured to get sharp sting: Health insurers plan to raise rates more than 50%”) but to join the growing chorus of people who decry the implementation of the exchanges as a total disaster. The architects of the health care reform legislation and the underlying exchanges need to intervene in a major way to prevent the system from collapsing.
The biggest disappointment for someone like me, in my 40s with a family, is that the cost of insuring my family through the individual market is now totally out of reach. I priced a plan online for my family of five based on current prices, and it was almost $1,000 for a plan with a $9,400 deductible and a $13,100 out of pocket maximum. And that is now scheduled to increase at least another 50 percent for 2017, bringing it closer to $1,500. That is almost as much as my monthly mortgage payment. How do the self-employed, the entrepreneurs and those trying to start a business manage that? For me, it is the No. 1 barrier for striking out on my own as an entrepreneur, taking a career risk, etc.
And the silver lining, we’re told, is that more people should now qualify for federal tax credits as a result of the skyrocketing premiums. Seriously? I couldn’t be more disappointed with how this has played out, both nationally but especially here in Minnesota. Something has to give. It should now be obvious to all that this is not a sustainable model.
Brad McFaul, Rosemount
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There are several things worth noting about the increases in individual health insurance rates. First, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says that the increases aren’t fair. How does he define unfair? Is it the fact that this same class of insured customers have been enjoying artificially low rates while the insurance companies lost money and now they must pay rates that allow the insurance companies to make a profit? Before the casual reader objects and says the insurance companies are making too much money on the backs of hardworking Minnesotans, remember that the companies must pay out a mandated high percentage of their premiums to cover claims and are allowed only a relatively small amount for overhead and profit. This is all set out in the Affordable Health Care Act. Also remember that these rates are reviewed and approved by the state government. This class of insured customers has come at a much higher cost than anticipated due to larger claims than other classes as well as gaming of the system by many in this class.
The other issue is the remark in the Oct. 1 article that tax credits will cover the increased cost for many of those affected by higher rates. Nowhere does it say that this simply means that these higher rates must then be covered by the remaining taxpayers, not by those who are insured in this program. I’m disturbed how this is rarely mentioned or is trivialized by the media, not just in this article.
Many will use the issues with the ACA as justification for a single-payer system. All this means is that the 5 percent of the population covered under the exchange plans will benefit while the remaining 95 percent of us will be worse off in a program that will be managed by our federal government with no incentive for efficiency or innovation. There are answers to the problems, but we won’t arrive at them with misinformation and lack of information.
Bart Eddy, Chanhassen
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Increasing the premiums by 50 percent to 67 percent for the 5 percent of residents who buy this coverage is “to avert a market collapse”? What does that mean in real dollars? Would the 50 percent to 67 percent cut in top management salaries be more or less? Maybe this is a step in our march toward universal health care coverage like that of other nations.
Don Genereux, Robbinsdale
HEALTH CARE PROBLEMS, PART TWO
DHS has a programming error and wants you to fix it. Wow.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services found a computer programming error. So to fix it, the department is requiring 45,000 people to reapply for health insurance or lose coverage. (Business, Sept. 30) This is ridiculous. It should have the data it needs to be able to come up with a programming fix. (If it doesn’t, there are much more serious problems at the department.) Its two systems didn’t auto-sync, so it should be able to write a program to make these systems sync one time for the people who need it. If this is beyond its capabilities, can’t it re-enter the existing applications rather than making people complete new ones?
Rather than doing its job, the department is requiring (not asking) 45,000 people to do its job for it, without pay and under threat of penalty. It may not seem like it’s asking for much, but many people have a tremendously difficult time filling out forms and gathering the required documentation. So far, only 5,000 people have reapplied by the deadline. This is an indication of the difficulty of the process.
If the department won’t fix this problem, Gov. Mark Dayton should light a fire under someone, or hire someone with competence to replace the genius who came up with this harebrained solution.
I’m a software developer and have encountered situations like this many times. I would never ask the customer to fix my software problems.
Scott Nation, Minneapolis
Do voters care, or is it more abuse from a biased media?
I care to disagree with Stanley Hubbard’s assertion that “people don’t really care” about a candidate’s tax return (“Trump’s tax issues divides local GOP,” Oct. 3). A presidential candidate (if elected) inherits the responsibly to care for the whole country, not just his or her self-interest. A quick look at taxes tells us if we have a candidate who is part of the system or above it.
Paul Hager, Northfield
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I can’t help wondering if most of the newspapers across the country will have a lot of soul-searching to do after this election. Whether they actively campaigned against a candidate (the New York Times and Donald Trump’s tax returns) or told themselves they weren’t being biased because they weren’t even mentioning their preferred candidate, the truth is ethical journalism has taken a hit. I’m not sure if the damage can ever be undone. As a still undecided voter, every day when I read the anti-Trump headline and can’t find a Hillary Clinton headline, it makes me lean toward Trump. Please just give me all of the facts, and I will make up my own mind.
Beth Peterson, Mahtomedi
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So what if Trump, legally, used the tax system to gain a windfall. More power to him. While listening to all the pundits, for and against Trump, discussing the issue, I have not heard any of them remind us that the tax windfall came from him bankrupting three casinos in Atlantic City. Who bankrupts a casino? He must be a great and smart businessman.
Clare Michlin, Minneapolis
Hazeltine was an ideal course
Congratulations to Hazeltine National Golf Club for its spectacular success as host of the Ryder Cup over the weekend. But, I think it goes much further than that. To me, even watching on TV, it was clear that Hazeltine is the course of the future of major golf events. Thousands of stadium seats. Topography that allows fans to sit in elevated grass. Acres of open space and pathways. It is the most fan-friendly championship course I’ve seen, and also has massive capacity.
Richard Diercks, Wayzata