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Column: Health insurance innovation through cooperatives

Barb Haley is the Minnesota District 21A representative

In a previous column, I discussed the preliminary rates that were released by the Department of Commerce for the 2018 individual health insurance market. The reforms that were passed during the 2017 legislative session helped end a four-year run of double-digit premium increases (nearly 60 percent last year) and helped stabilize the market.

Final rates for the 2018 individual market were released this month: UCare customers will see a rate decrease of 13.3 percent, Preferred One customers will see a rate decrease of 38 percent, Medica customers will see a rate decrease of .4 percent, Group Health customers will see a rate decrease of 7.5 percent, and Blue Plus customers will see a much smaller rate increase of 2.8 percent.

Two segments of the individual health insurance market affected in our community by previously skyrocketing health insurance rates have been farmers and small businesses (10-25 employees). This past session, the Legislature reformed the stop loss requirements for small businesses. This levels the playing field for small businesses who choose to be self-insured in an effort to offer more affordable health insurance to their employees.

Legislation was also signed into law that allows organizations with member owners, such as a farm cooperative, to provide health insurance for their members. One group, 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, has been working over the past couple years to take this idea from paper to reality for Minnesota farmers and their families.

The goal of 40 Square aligns well with the intended purpose of the 2017 legislation: to provide a member-owned and operated health insurance system to Minnesota farm families in order to lower health insurance costs, and to gain access to more local clinics and quality health plans. 40 Square is aiming to have coverage effective Jan. 1, 2018, with open enrollment to take place later this fall. Check out the website for updates, preliminary cost estimates, and a schedule of upcoming informational town hall meetings: http://www.40square.coop/ 

Even with the reforms we passed, I know that many individuals and small businesses are still facing unsustainable health insurance premiums. Reducing health insurance costs and improving access for Minnesotans were top priorities this past session and will remain as priorities as we look ahead to the 2018 Legislative Session. My goal is for Minnesota to once again become a national leader in both health care delivery and in health insurance affordability.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at rep.barb.haley@house.mn or 651-296-8635. I appreciate your calls and emails as they help me be a better representative.

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