Why is health insurance more pricey in southeastern MN? Maybe it's Mayo

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The advent of MNsure has made it clear that southeastern Minnesotans pay more for health insurance than those who live in other parts of the state.

Now the "Why" question is getting more attention. And, as MPR reports, the people answering it are looking at the Mayo Clinic as the most likely explanation.

A University of Minnesota expert tells MPR that Mayo's dominance in the region makes it an expensive market for any competitor to enter. Consequently, Mayo has little competition and its prices - which are at the high end -- become the standard for the region.

The president of the health care analysis group Minnesota Community Measurement recently told the Winona Post that insurance providers have always charged more in southeastern Minnesota. Jim Chase tells the paper the arrival of the state's health insurance exchange has only made the disparity more stark.

The high premiums and lack of options may lead some businesses to look at moving to other parts of the state. KAAL visited with one small business owner who has facilities in both Rochester and Bloomington. Diane Eide tells the station her Bloomington office had 60 health plans to choose from, while the one in Rochester had only one.

State Rep. Tina Liebling told the Rochester Post Bulletin last month she planned to meet with Mayo officials about their rate structure, saying "I think Mayo is going to have to take a hard look at that problem." A Mayo spokesman told the newspaper the clinic objects to the fee-for-service model that MNsure uses, preferring to measure the total cost of treating a disease.

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