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To Save or Not to Save METS: That’s the Real Question for Counties

Three years after a disastrous launch, the MNsure state health care exchange’s IT system (METS) remains so dysfunctional that county officials still struggling to implement it openly question whether the system should be scrapped. “The whole operability of the public program side is a complete, unmitigated disaster,” said Dakota County Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg. “After a while you just get numb,” said Pennington County Commissioner Darryl Tveitbakk. “…The administration of it has been a disaster.” “It's been three years of incremental improvements, temporary fixes and manual work-arounds for public healthcare programs,” Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison told Gov. Mark Dayton in a...

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Minnesotans once again face steep increases in insurance premiums due to federal health care law

Back in June, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota announced it was pulling out of Minnesota’s individual insurance market due to heavy losses.  As a result, 103,000 policy holders will lose their policies and must now shop for a new plan. Those shoppers and everyone else looking to purchase individual health insurance will be facing a steep hike in their premiums next year.  As the Star Tribune reports, the federal government yesterday revealed preliminary rates “with proposed jumps for thousands of people averaging anywhere from 36 percent to 67 percent.” Those reported numbers are averages.  My own brief investigation into insurance filings...

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Democrats’ health care law responsible for the turmoil besetting Minnesota’s individual insurance market

The Star Tribune editorial board continues to think ideological blinders are still in fashion.  That’s my main takeaway from their recent editorial on Minnesota’s individual insurance market. The editorial highlights the urgent need to fix a “colossal problem” with Minnesota’s individual insurance market. Colossal, indeed. Since the moment Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations were fully implemented in 2014, Minnesota’s individual insurance market has been under constant assault and, on its current trajectory, will implode sooner than any ACA critics, myself included, predicted. As editorialists, they could not help but call out someone for being responsible for this mess. Who were the lucky recipients...

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More MNSure Fallout: 103,000 Minnesotans cannot keep that plan they liked after all

According to MPR, “Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision.” This means that 103,000 Minnesotans who bought a policy in what is called “the individual market” cannot keep those policies in 2017. They will have to look elsewhere. About 20,000 of those Minnesotans bought their plan on MNsure, most with the help of tax subsidies, but the vast majority bought their plans in the rapidly declining individual market through a broker. In the...

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MNsure errors in determining eligibility cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars

Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor found that over a five-month period the state overpaid between $115 and $271 million in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare benefits due to MNsure’s failure to ensure people met the programs’ eligibility requirements. The audit sampled 157 people and found that 38 percent of them were not eligible for the program MNsure enrolled them in.  Of those sampled, 28 percent weren’t eligible for any program at all. The price for this error rate is not limited to the five months the audit covered.  Assuming the eligibility errors remain unresolved, the overpayment becomes a loss ranging from $276 to $650 million...

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2014 Health Care Savings Date Back to when Republicans Controlled the Minnesota Legislature

The Star Tribune reports Minnesota spent $1.2 billion less than projected on public health care programs in 2014.  Lower spending is, of course, great news for Minnesota’s budget.  Lower spending on Medicaid and MinnesotaCare is even better news for the future sustainability of state spending because health care traditionally grows faster than any other area of spending. In addition to reporting on savings, the article offered a good overview of the current and future issues facing the state’s public health care programs. So how did the state achieve $1.2 billion in lower spending? The Star Tribune focused on two recent developments in Medicaid...

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Document Reveals Commerce Pressured PreferredOne to Make Unreasonable Assumptions to Justify Low Rates

Last week news broke from the Star Tribune that the Minnesota Department of Commerce “asked” PreferredOne to lower rates.  At the same time the Star Tribune was developing their story, I was looking into the same documents on the Commerce website and found other insurers were also pressured to lower rates, which I reported on in American Experiment’s blog.  However, it wasn’t clear how far Commerce went to pressure companies because, as I noted, there is a “troubling lack of transparency and consistency in insurance regulatory filings.” Since then I reread the Commerce press release from September 6, 2013 announcing the...

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Brookings study reveals Minnesota’s individual insurance market is not faring well under ACA

A new study published by the Brookings Institution reveals the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is imposing far more volatility and harm on people in Minnesota’s individual market than elsewhere. The study, by Yale economist Amanda Kowalski, takes “an early look at the impact of the ACA on the individual health insurance market.”  It compares state-by-state coverage levels, insurance premiums and insurance costs in the first two quarters of 2014 to estimates of what they would have been if the ACA had not been implemented this year.  These estimates are created by extending pre-ACA trends going back to 2008. ...

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More insurers pressured to lower MNsure rates: Time to remove politics from rate-setting process

The Star Tribune reported yesterday that the Minnesota Department of Commerce “asked” PreferredOne to lower insurance rates in the MNsure exchange last year.  The July 2013 letter referenced in the story reveals the company lowered rates twice in response to Commerce “objections.” PreferredOne ultimately agreed to lower rates by 37 percent from its initial proposal, which resulted in the company offering the lowest rates in the nation.  Governor Dayton’s administration celebrated these low rates throughout the year, all of which helped dial down the political heat from MNsure’s botched rollout. “Now,” according to the Star Tribune, “those subscribers face an average premium...

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Supreme Court renames Obamacare SCOTUScare: Court offers to write all future legislation for Congress to save time and face

Good news from the Supreme Court today: If you like your health care subsidies, you can keep them. If you like limited government and the separation of powers, you are out of luck. Now that Chief Justice Roberts and five of his colleagues found that the phrase “Exchange established by the State” means “Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government,” we should henceforth follow Justice Scalia’s suggestion that this act of Congress, which had to be passed before the People knew what was in it and then had to be rescued not once, but twice, by a complicit Supreme...

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