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LETTER: Turmoil in individual insurance market demands immediate reforms

 

To the Editor:

After another rocky rollout for MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, the reality of higher costs and fewer choices is becoming all too clear for Minnesotans shopping for health insurance in the individual market.

Residents from Red Wing to Lake City to Wabasha to Winona already struggle with living in the highest cost region in the state. Yet for a family of four shopping through MNsure, the monthly premium cost of a benchmark plan (the second-lowest cost silver plan) will rise in 2017 by another 66 percent, from $1,136 to $1,883.

Not only are costs higher, but choices are more limited. The number of companies offering health plans in the area will drop from three to two, and the number of health plan choices will reduce by half from 30 to 15.

But those health plan choices won’t be available to everyone. New enrollments in Medica health plans across the state are capped at 7,000 people to help limit financial risk and manage network capacity. When Medica’s caps are hit, choices for southeastern Minnesota residents will be limited to just three health plans offered by Blue Plus, and these choices will be costly. The monthly premium for a family of four will be $2,434 for the only remaining silver plan — an astounding 114 percent higher than the 2016 benchmark.

People who qualify for tax credits will not experience the same rate shock. However, only 70,000 of the 300,000 people in the individual insurance market take advantage of these subsidies, leaving over 75 percent of the market exposed.

All of this demonstrates an immediate need to reform or replace MNsure and the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance regulations, both of which played their own roles in creating this mess.

Peter Nelson 

Minneapolis

Peter Nelson is Vice President and Senior Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment and a member of the Minnesota Health Care Financing Task Force.