Update: Gov. Mark Dayton, responding to health insurers’ concerns, said Monday afternoon that Minnesota would not adopt an optional fix for those whose coverage had changed because their plans didn’t comply with the federal health reform law.
Representatives from an industry group and the state’s major insurers met with the Commerce Department, which regulates insurance, on Friday to discuss their concerns over the administrative solution announced Thursday by President Obama.
The Minnesota Council of Health Plans sent letters to Dayton and Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman earlier Monday highlighting practical problems with allowing Minnesotans to reclaim their old insurance plans, which did not comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Dayton said in a letter to Julie Brunner, executive director of the group, that while he supported Obama’s goal, he understood the difficulty it would cause Minnesota’s insurance companies.
“Your letter makes clear that making the program changes offered by the president last week would be unworkable for your members and would likely cause more expensive health coverage for Minnesotans,” Dayton wrote in the letter.
“I have directed Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to proceed with the current implementation of MNsure and the Affordable Care Act and with the plans made before last week’s announcement.”
In a statement, the council’s Brunner praised Dayton’s decision:
“We appreciate the shared goal of Governor Dayton and President Obama to provide as many choices as possible. Yet making changes at this time simply would have been too disruptive to the market, both for today and for the future. Moving forward with the planned, strategic implementation of health care reform is the best course for Minnesota’s marketplace.”
Republicans jumped on the news and criticized Dayton for not allowing Minnesotans whose plans have changed to secure the same coverage through next year.
“I’m disappointed Gov. Dayton isn’t willing to allow Minnesotans to keep the plan and doctor of their choosing,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said in a statement. “Gov. Dayton’s reversal today is disrespectful to hardworking Minnesotans, and it’s time he and Democrat lawmakers take responsibility.”
Minnesota’s health plans have voiced their displeasure with President Obama’s administrative “fix” to the change and cancellation notices that have flooded insurance consumers as the federal health care reform law’s full launch nears.
The health plans, which have worked to implement massive industry changes under often-uncertain conditions to comply with the health law, raised their concerns in letters Monday to Gov. Mark Dayton and Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.
“The president’s announcement comes too late to allow health plans and our regulator to complete filings, rate approvals and communications regarding re-enrollments in time to prevent major market disruptions for Minnesotans in the individual marketplace,” Julie Brunner, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, wrote in a letter to the governor.
“We strongly urge you, Gov. Dayton, to reject the president’s offer to renew these outdated policies.”
The Commerce Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the insurers’ concerns.
The announcement put the insurance industry, regulators and officials in a difficult position. State insurance regulators have the choice to decline to implement the fix, and companies have the option to not offer discontinued coverage.
State officials have said only that they are evaluating what Minnesota should do.
Representatives from Minnesota’s major insurance companies and an industry group met with state officials on Friday to address their concerns.
Brunner noted in her letter to Rothman that implementing Obama’s optional changes could harm risk calculations inside and outside MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace, and would likely cause premiums to spike in 2015.
The move also only addresses the issue for a year, Brunner reminded state officials.
“While we understand that many consumers are frustrated that their health coverage is changing, the president’s offer for a one-year delay will not erase their frustration — it will only postpone it to the fall of 2014 when those policies must be brought into compliance,” she wrote to Rothman.
Obama announced the move on Thursday in an effort to assuage criticisms that he had broken a promise to the American public about whether people would be able to keep their insurance.
Estimates in Minnesota put the number of people with coverage changes to meet the new requirements at more than 140,000.
The fix would allow consumers to keep coverage that doesn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s more stringent benefits standards for an extra year.
Representatives from all the health plans, as well as Brunner, met with Deputy Commerce Commissioner Tim Vande Hey, a department actuary and a Health Department representative.