The following is an editorial from the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
The glee expressed by MNsure critics when PreferredOne announced it would be pulling out of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange was expected, but nonetheless, it’s still disappointing.
The Affordable Care Act isn’t going to go away. Even if the Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and maintain their majority in the U.S. House, Congress won’t be able to repeal it because they won’t have a sufficient majority to override President Barack Obama’s veto, something he certainly would use to preserve the signature achievement of his administration. That means we must make MNsure better or default to the federal health exchange as a majority of the states have done.
PreferredOne, the largest provider of coverage during the first year of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, announced last week it was pulling out of MNsure because it was “not administratively and financially sustainable.” PreferredOne, a small but well-regarded company based in Golden Valley, saw an opportunity to expand its market and took a risk by offering premiums lower than any of its competitors.
Initially, the strategy appeared to work. PreferredOne had 59 percent of the private-plan market for MNsure enrollees through Aug. 6. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota had 23 percent, HealthPartners 12 percent, Medica 5 percent and UCare 1 percent. However, PreferredOne concluded it couldn’t maintain its lower premiums as it neared the enrollment deadline for 2015 and chose to leave the health exchange.
Customers can stay with PreferredOne if they choose. The company has to renew existing policies by law, but it has the option of charging more. However, for other customers who qualify for federal tax subsidies, keeping their PreferredOne might not be affordable. The only way to receive the federal subsidies is to enroll in coverage through the state’s insurance exchange, and PreferredOne plans will not be available there. That probably will force some people to switch carriers, leaving the four remaining companies competing for nearly 30,000 people who bought PreferredOne policies when the 2015 open-enrollment period begins on Nov. 15.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson stepped up his criticism of MNsure on Friday by calling for the state auditor to expand the current investigation into the health exchange’s operations on whether the Commerce Department pressured PreferredOne into offering rates that are unsustainably low. Legislative Auditor James Nobles is in the midst of conducting two audits and a broader evaluation of MNsure after its disastrous rollout last year.
We’ll dismiss Johnson’s charge as campaign hyperbole because accusing Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration of coercion is absurd, especially because he couldn’t offer any hard evidence. However, we believe Johnson’s earlier criticisms of MNsure are worthy of discussion.
Johnson has questioned Dayton for denying waivers to small businesses not in compliance with the federal health-care law. While the Obama administration has offered states more time to get small group plans in compliance, the Dayton administration said no to that option. Dayton defended his decision by saying 75 percent of Minnesota companies already are ACA-compliant and that exempting the other 25 percent would unfairly raise rates for the compliant companies.
Johnson also said he would change the composition of the MNsure board, adding people with experience in the health-care industry. He also has suggested tightening rules around what the MNsure board is authorized to do.
MNsure already was one of the main campaign issues of the gubernatorial and legislation races. Let’s not waste any more breath with the I-told-you-so rhetoric. Instead, let’s return to offering concrete ideas on how to improve MNsure.
Republished with permission.
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