With 4.5% average increase, MNsure rates to remain lowest in nation

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Gov. Mark Dayton called the rates “not perfect” but still “very good.”

Rates on the state-run health insurance exchange MNsure will increase an average of 4.5 percent across the state next year, but Minnesota will still have the lowest rates in the nation.

It was welcome news from state officials Wednesday for supporters of MNsure, after the cheapest option on the exchange, PreferredOne, recently announced it would not offer policies in the 2015 exchange. Many assumed the exit would push rates in Minnesota higher than those in other states.

The four plans that will continue offering coverage in the exchange — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica and UCare — will also be joined by Blue Plus in 2015, a Blue Cross Affiliate, state officials announced.

The rate changes for the five companies participating in the exchange next year represent a wide range, however — some are dropping their averages by 10 percent while others will see hikes higher than 17 percent. Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman wouldn’t say which companies are raising or decreasing their rates.

“I can tell you that we achieved the lowest rates in the nation even though last year’s lowest-cost company decided to sit out this year,” Rothman said. 

For instance, lowest monthly premium rates in the metro area for a 25-year-old on the so-called “Bronze level” will be about $110 in 2015, a nearly $20 increase from 2014 rates. 

But more tax credits will be available through the exchange next year, MNSure CEO Scott Leitz said, helping cut down the cost of higher premiums. And while the MNsure website was plagued with glitches and headaches for consumers in 2014, Minnesotans will have a better shopping experience next year, he said.

Officials are preparing for the next open enrollment period in the exchange, which will start Nov. 15 and run through mid-February next year.

In the middle of a heated campaign season, troubles with MNsure have become one of the main talking points of Republican candidates. Gov. Mark Dayton said the news was “not perfect” but still “very good.”  “I realize we are 34 days before an election, but it is permissible to actually recognize and applaud good news, and that’s what this is predominantly,” he said.

In an early response from legislative Republicans, they said the exchange still hasn’t delivered on offering lower health-care costs for Minnesotans.

“Democrats promised that the average family would save $500 per year thanks to MNsure,” Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe, minority lead on the House Commerce Committee, said. “Instead, health insurance premiums are going up yet again. Today’s release is a disappointment for families struggling to afford Obamacare premiums.” 

The Minnesota Jobs Coaltion, an outside spending group trying to make MNsure an issue in state House races this year, said some parts of the state outside of the metro will see premium rates for the lowest-cost plan increase by 20 percent on average. 

“Despite the repeated promises to the contrary from Mark Dayton and Minnesota Democrats, MNsure has made health insurance more expensive,” Ben Golnik, chairman of the group, said in a statement. 

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 10/01/2014 - 03:26 pm.

    Sustaining Donation

    Briana – I will become a Sustainer if you can post exactly how that 4.5% is calculated. Averaging averages?

    • Submitted by T J Simplot on 10/02/2014 - 10:42 am.

      Averaging averages…

      is exactly what they did. They simply added up the overall averages for each carrier and divided by the number of carriers. Never mind that the carrier with the largest share (BCBSM) had a 17% increase while the carrier with the decrease has the smallest share (UCare)

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/01/2014 - 10:00 pm.

    What I see is if you’re already paying top buck for MNSure, you can expect a minimum 4.5% hike…everyone else, hold on to your pants. Especially the “poorest of the poor”…remember them?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/02/2014 - 07:42 am.

      Good Point

      We should just end this for profit health care scam and cut costs drastically by implementing a single payer system. That’s tough for some Americans, who hate to admit that other countries occasionally have better ideas than we do. Maybe they could just get over it.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/02/2014 - 03:20 pm.

      Since you live in South Carolina, Mr. Swift, you

      should look in the mirror when scolding people about the “poorest of the poor.”

      Poorest of the poor left out of Affordable Care Act’s health insurance expansion
      Charlotte Observer
      http://ow.ly/CdBdg

      “Every state in the Deep South, except for Arkansas, rejected the Medicaid expansion. Like North Carolina and South Carolina, most of those states are led by Republican governors who are philosophically opposed to the Affordable Care Act.

      Because so many states rejected the expansion, two-thirds of poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of low-wage workers who are currently uninsured in the United States are left without insurance …”

      Perhaps you should remove the mote from your own eye?

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/02/2014 - 10:09 pm.

        Bill, you speak as if what MNSure promises is better than nothing; it’s not.

        The people who think they are covered for health care, only to find there are not enough doctors and hospitals willing to take their cut-rate coverage are only slightly less disappointed than those that do find a doctor but are unable to cover the ridiculously high deductibles.

        The people of South Carolina are used to relying on themselves and their families, Bill. The whining of Minnesota leftists, and the empty promises of the federal government will not change their lives, and they know it. If they believed the lies, they’d have moved to Minneapolis.

        • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/03/2014 - 09:29 am.

          Your contention, Mr. Swift,

          that MNSure is worse than nothing is absurd.

          As an example, just ask those who were unable to get insurance previously due to pre-existing conditions. or look at the excellent comments by the wonderful singer, Maria Jette, below.

          That is all.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/04/2014 - 08:18 am.

            Bill, Maria shared, earlier, that she paid a $6,000 deductible to have her broken mended.

            I commend her for her ability to absorb that kind of a financial blow, and wish her speed in her recovery, but if you’ll recall, we were discussing the poor; folks that can’t even scrape up enough to pay for an ID.

            How long would it take to pay that off using the newly raised minimum wage, do ya figure? Although the ledger might prove MNSure was better than nothing to them, it’s a difference without distinction to someone for whom $6k might as well be $6million.

            • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/04/2014 - 03:36 pm.

              Mr. Swift, you have distorted what was said in Maria Jette’s

              earlier comment.

              Readers should know that it said:

              “I don’t watch TV at home, but have been seeing Scott Honour’s ads (in silence) at the gym lately. That’s where I’m doing rehab exercises for the leg I broke in January…the leg which was repaired via the HealthPartners coverage I got through MNSure. We’re an all-freelancer, self-employed household with a fluctuating income, and this year’s premiums saved us $4000 over the BCBS premiums we were paying previously. I’ll end up paying close to $6K for my leg repair, with the deductible and my percentage of the bills after it, and am pretty relieved that we’re not paying an additional $4K to the insurance company for premiums!”
              link: http://ow.ly/ChDwh

              So one of the things that protected her from the financial blow was the $4000 that she saved over the previous payments she was making before MNSure! A savings that she will continue to accrue as time goes by.

              And your attempts to dodge the issue of lack of reasonable insurance for “the poorest of the poor” in your home state by ignoring my earlier link did not go unnoticed. Gross generalizations without facts is not a proper argument except perhaps on right wing talk radio.

              • Submitted by Maria Jette on 10/06/2014 - 11:47 am.

                Quite right, Bill…

                …and Mr. Swift, you did indeed misquote (or mis-quasi-quote) my previous comment. I was estimating that, all told, I’d end up paying about $6K out of pocket for my leg repair, which INCLUDES my deductible of $1500. It’s not that I’m rolling in dough, but as a person whose income depends on physical well-being, I avoid higher deductibles as they tend to make a person delay prompt treatment.

                Bill is quite right about that $4K– it’s not that it was just lying around the house, but knowing that we wouldn’t be forking over that additional amount for premiums alone made the bills for out of network stuff (I think the anesthesiologist may’ve been one of those) less disheartening.

                Had I *not* had this insurance, the $28,000 for 4 nights in Methodist would’ve had a pretty grim effect!

                This kind of injury keeps on giving. I’ll have further surgery in November to remove some hardware, and need to get it done before the end of the year before the deductible starts up again. I’ve found HealthPartners to be excellent. BCBS was excellent. However, this is a really dumb way to run healthcare in a big, rich nation– and we’d be better off with a system that just operated via taxes to fix everyone’s injuries and illnesses (Ebola, for example) when they happened, rather than bankrupting those who don’t have enough money, or don’t have enough education (or plain old intelligence) to figure out how to deal with the healthcare business…or are too naive (or unimaginative) to realize that a single false step can lead to about $40K in healthcare costs.

  3. Submitted by John Edwards on 10/02/2014 - 11:33 am.

    Who will be that magnificent “Single Payer?”

    I am all for that Single Payer who is going to pay my health insurance. Is it going to be Bill Gates? Warren Buffet? If Mr. Phelan can tell me, I would appreciate it. I am going to get up early to be first in line in case the Single Payer runs out of money.

    • Submitted by Maria Jette on 10/02/2014 - 02:10 pm.

      Who’s paying? Well…

      …it’s the same Single Payer who’ll be paying your Medicare and Social Security, i.e. all of us. It’s been suggested that Single Payer could be implemented as an expanded version of Medicare. That makes sense to me. Medicare has worked pretty well over the last several decades– well enough, in fact, that Ayn Rand herself ended up utilizing SS, and probably Medicare: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/16/1121029/-If-Ayn-Needed-Medicare-How-Can-We-Do-Without#

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/02/2014 - 04:32 pm.

      Single Payer

      Who will pay the bills if someone doesn’t have health insurance? People will go to the emergency room, won’t be able to pay the bill, and the rest of us get stuck with the payments through higher rates.

      With a single payer universal system, we’ll have all in and all will benefit. No one has to worry about getting left out in the cold, avoid preventative care because they can’t afford the co-pays, or fret over switching jobs. If someone wants to launch a start-up, she can do so without worrying about health care coverage for her family.

      No worries about pre-existing conditions, dropped coverage, gaps in coverage, doctors, clinics, and hospitals that are out of network, referrals, bankruptcy, or a host of other problems that plague our current system. I’m surprised that people of all political stripes aren’t behind this initiative as the benefits are so obvious it’s a slam dunk. Republicans should especially like it as it creates a work force that’s more flexible and mobile. Plus it takes the responsibility for health care off the backs of businesses, saving them a huge expense.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/03/2014 - 06:16 am.

      Who pays

      I am all for that Single Payer who is going to pay my health insurance.

      The same entity who is paying for it now.

  4. Submitted by Maria Jette on 10/02/2014 - 11:52 am.

    It’s the endless anti-MNSure clichés that make ME sick…

    Here’s the note I just sent Rep. Hoppe via his website.

    Dear Rep. Hoppe,

    I just saw (on MinnPost) a quote from you, in which you said: “Democrats promised that the average family would save $500 per year thanks to MNsure,” Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe, minority lead on the House Commerce Committee, said. “Instead, health insurance premiums are going up yet again. Today’s release is a disappointment for families struggling to afford Obamacare premiums.”

    Could you please reveal some of these families? And while plenty of our fellow Minnesotans are certainly struggling to pay for health care, could you provide evidence that MNSure’s offerings are WORSE than what they had to contend with (and not afford!) before MNSure/Obamacare?

    I just can’t believe that you’ll be able to do it.

    I’m writing as a self-employed musician, married to another one. We have to pay for every bit of our own healthcare. We’d been on an excellent BCBS plan for several years, and it ate a huge chunk of our ever-vacillating self-employed-musician incomes. When MNSure came online last fall, I was one of the people who managed it with relative ease, and selected a fantastic HealthPartners plan for the two of us. Our premiums are MUCH lower than they were with BCBS, and we’re getting a much better health return through HP/Park Nicollet!

    In fact, we saved MORE than $500. This year’s projected increase of ca. 5% will still have us saving more than $500.

    I fear you’re merely repeating lines that your party has been churning out since the ACA was passed. That’s a pity, as you could be speaking with actual MNSure success stories like us, and spreading the word to our fellow citizens that both Democrats AND Republicans can do very well with MNSure.

    Please contact me if you’d like to discuss it in person. I’ll hobble over to the Capitol on the healing broken leg which HealthPartners has been tending since Feb. 2!

    Best regards,
    Maria Jette

  5. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 10/02/2014 - 08:00 pm.

    It’s working

    Don’t like the 17% avg increase from BC/BS? Then switch to Medica where rates increased 1.8%. Or to U-care where they decreased 9%. (All figures per the Star Trib article).

    That’s how the marketplace works. Insurance providers set their rates and we get to compare and choose.

    BTW, 4.5% would represent the lowest year-to-year increase we’ve personally experienced except for 2013 to 2014, when MnSure began and we were able to see a decrease.

    • Submitted by Joseph Skar on 10/02/2014 - 09:50 pm.

      A denominator issue?

      Harris – The problem would seem to be if you didn’t like the BCBS increase and switched to Medica’s lower increase, the prior Medica rate (more likely Preferred One) was likely materially higher than the old BCBS rate, so the effective rate of increase would be far far greater than simply comparing individual plan rate changes.

      I just can’t believe people think this would be a reasonable or truthful way to represent the rate change to the public.

      I’m also suprised minnpost didn’t attempt to validate the rate change. As a journalist if you post a headline stating a 4.5% increase then give a specific example in the body of the post regarding the average increase for a Bronze plan being significantly higher (north of 15%) don’t you need to dig deeper?

      • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 10/03/2014 - 09:40 am.

        First, you’re absolutely right about validating the rate change. Such is the state is journalism today. At a minimum, it should reflect a weighted average.

        My response was influenced by my experience with rates last year. I estimated total expected cost (both premiums and out of pocket) for various plans; for the plan level we wanted, BC/BS was slightly more expensive than Medica. Someone else could decide differently.

        We ended up with HealthPartners. Still not the cheapest for us but the best combination of network and cost. It’s possible that this year we go with Medica or with a different plan type.

        But that’s what a marketplace is for.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 10/04/2014 - 11:35 am.

          Wait

          You mean all those clamoring for the “free market” to magically transform the health care insurance industry into a well oiled, perfectly equitable system, might not like that they can’t have exactly what they want, when they want it, with no actual effort expended on their end? Who’d a thunk it? But it would be SO different if only we could by cut rate garbage from Delaware or South Dakota.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 10/06/2014 - 08:07 am.

            It seems that this issue

            is mirroring same-sex marriage. The people that are complaining the most haven’t been affected by it one bit.

  6. Submitted by Jon Lord on 10/07/2014 - 01:49 pm.

    I would suppose

    that it should be the least able to afford insurance before the ACA who will benefit the most and that some of those among the ones who have no problem with how it was before are the ones who don’t like the idea of affordable insurance the most! That’s mostly true. I know people who would benefit from MNsure who are against it because they think it will cost them too much. I wonder where they get that idea from?

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