More than 100,000 Minnesotans will have to find a new health plan


More than 100,000 Minnesotans will have to find new health insurance at the end of this year.

That's because Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), the state's biggest health plan provider, has chosen to reduce the options it offers to individuals – either directly, via brokers or through the health insurance exchange MNSure – because it's been losing money.

It means going forward it will mostly only sell health plans to Minnesotans through their employers, and according to the Star Tribune it will mean 103,000 people who bought BCBS plans will need to find a new provider at the end of the year.

The newspaper says BCBS will stop offering its "traditional suite of flexible and broad-reaching policies" to individuals buying individually or through MNSure – Minnesota's answer to the Affordable Care Act – and will instead only offer plans with a "narrow network" that limits the doctors, hospitals and drugs you can access.

Governor Mark Dayton, in a statement on Thursday, said the move "creates a serious and unintended challenge for the individual market" and that it "is symptomatic of conditions in the national health insurance marketplace."

"Importantly, no one will immediately lose their health coverage as a result of this decision," he added. "Minnesotans affected by Blue Cross Blue Shield's decision will have several months and many alternative coverage options available through the marketplace during the upcoming Open Enrollment period."

According to MPR, the health insurer lost $265 million in 2015 selling health plans on the individual market, basically because people who took the plans were sicker than expected.

The news organization spoke to University of Minnesota health economist Roger Feldman, who said this is bad news for Minnesota's individual health market.

"What this says about the individual market is that it is very unstable and it has been disrupted by a number of events and we still don't know whether it will recover or not from those disruptions," he said.

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