Health Care
Written by Tom Steward | October 25, 2016

Could be worse! Minnesota has only 4th highest Obamacare rate hike

Steep Affordable Care Act premium hikes and declining options through the MNsure state health insurance exchange have made headlines for days. Rate increases of 50 to 67 percent on the individual market forced a panicked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to recently admit “the reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for an increasing number of people.”

But there’s always a silver lining. As the Pioneer Press points out, residents of a handful of other states have even worse premium increases to deal with.

Minnesota’s 59 percent premium increases on its individual health insurance market have been shocking consumers and politicians alike, but they’re not even the highest in the country.

New figures released Monday show an average premium increase of 25 percent in the 39 states using the federal insurance exchange. Minnesota uses a state-run exchange, MNsure. Among the 43 states with available data, Minnesota has the fourth-highest premium increase, behind Tennessee, Oklahoma and the 116 percent increase in Arizona. All three states use

Despite Minnesota’s huge increase, it’s not among the states with the highest 2017 premiums, though it is now above-average in costs. That’s because just a few years ago, Minnesota had among the lowest premiums in the nation, so even years of double-digit increases leave Minnesota with the 13th-highest premiums in the country, according to a Pioneer Press analysis.images

Still, it’s quite a shock for a state where Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman was bragging about Minnesota having the lowest premiums in the country just two years ago. But a year ago, the writing was on the wall with increases of from 14 to 40 percent. Their advice at the time?

State officials stressed the need to shop MNsure, or with insurers themselves, to get the best deal.

“Shop around” was a term Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and interim MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole used. O’Toole said a new comparison tool will be available when 2016 enrollment opens Nov. 1, a tool she said would give Minnesotans a better way to decide what policy is best for them.

Fast forward to November 1, 2016. There’s no more happy talk from MNsure’s apologists. In fact, Dayton and other MNsure advocates themselves are shopping around for a special legislative session to stop the bleeding.

State officials and politicians in both parties have called Minnesota’s individual insurance market a “crisis” and are calling for major reforms.

…While most states are facing significant premium increases, Minnesota is in worse shape because it has an unusually small individual market with an unusually large number of sick people. That means insurers have had to pay more to cover care than they’ve received in premiums, resulting in millions of dollars in losses.

A major insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, pulled out of Minnesota’s individual market this year, and other insurers threatened to do so but were persuaded to stay in. To keep those insurers, state officials agreed to major premium increases and to enrollment caps on most of the carriers.

It’s true Minnesotans have “only” the fourth highest health insurance premium increases in the country next year. On the other hand, Minnesotans had the lowest rates of all states two years ago. It doesn’t take a doctor to see the prognosis is looking worse every year.

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