Minnesota's health plan rates confirmed for 2018

Some are going up, some are going down, but it would be worse if not for "reinsurance."

Minnesotans who buy their health insurance individually or get it from small employers are finding out how much their plans will cost next year.

The state's Department of Commerce confirmed the final rate increases for "small group" health plans as well as insurance on the individual market, which can be bought directly from insurers or via the state's health exchange MNsure.

The rate changes for individual plans, which 4 percent of Minnesotans buy, range from a 38 percent decrease to a 2.8 percent increase.

Rate changes for small group plans – coverage offered by businesses with 2-50 employees – range from a 0.3 to 23 percent increase. Five percent of Minnesotans get their health insurance this way.

But...many will still be paying more

Price increases have been kept lower this year because of efforts at the state level to curb the costs of healthcare through a "reinsurance" program.

Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-led legislature agreed to the program as a way of stabilizing healthcare costs at the state level while the future of healthcare, namely the Affordable Care Act, remains ambiguous at the national level.

Reinsurance sees the state cover the costs of some of patients in the state who incur "unusually high" medical bills.

If the program hadn't been approved, the insurance rates announced on Monday would likely have been around 20 percent higher. 

Around 166,000 Minnesotans get their health insurance on the individual market, with the majority of state residents covered through their employer's plans or via public programs like Medicaid.

However, for more than 100,000 of these consumers, 2018 could actually see them paying more.

That's because for 2017, the state approved a 25 percent rebate on health insurance costs for individual market/MNsure plan buyers who don't qualify for federal tax credits. Some 112,000 people have benefited from this rebate so far this year.

But with the rebate not continuing in 2018, many of these people will end up paying more for their insurance next year because they won't get that 25 percent discount.

How much extra they'll pay will depend on individual circumstances and what new plan they sign up for.

DFL criticizes reinsurance

The Minnesota DFL has criticized the reinsurance program after the rates were revealed, saying it doesn't address the deficiencies with the current healthcare system.

It notes that five Minnesota counties – Meeker, Todd, Kittson, Lake of the Woods and Roseau – have only one insurance carrier, Medica, on the individual market. What's more, many plans will have caps on enrollees, meaning some consumers will miss out on the most affordable plans.

“Many Minnesotans, especially in rural areas, will still lack quality, affordable options for health care, and this is unacceptable,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL-Duluth).

The DFL also notes that the federal approval of reinsurance was partnered with a proposed $369 million cut to funding for MinnesotaCare, which provides subsidized coverage to 100,000 low-income Minnesotans who don't qualify for Medicaid.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1

Those looking to buy individual plans for 2018 are able to do so from Nov. 1, the state announced.

The open-enrollment period will continue through Jan. 14, with more information on plans expected to be made available in the coming weeks.

Costs can be further reduced if you qualify for federal tax credits, which are available to households with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2018 is $48,240 for an individual and $98,400 for a family of four.

You can check if you qualify by contacting MNsure.

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