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

The rate changes for the five firms in the exchange represent a wide range — some are dropping their averages by 10% while others will see hikes higher than 17%.

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

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.

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“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.