Minnesota will let the health insurers in its Obamacare market raise rates by at least 50 percent next year, after the individual market there came to the brink of collapse, the state’s commerce commissioner said Friday.
The increases range from 50 percent to 67 percent, Commissioner Mike Rothman’s office said in a statement. Rothman, who regulates the state’s insurers, is an appointee under Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat. The rate hike follows increases for this year of 14 percent to 49 percent.
“It’s in an emergency situation -- we worked hard and avoided a collapse.” Rothman said in a telephone interview. “It’s a stopgap for 2017.”
On average, rates in the state will rise by about 60 percent, said Shane Delaney, a spokesman for MNSure, the state’s marketplace for Obamacare plans. About 250,000 people, or 5 percent of the state’s population, were covered under plans bought on the individual market, including plans bought on the Affordable Care Act markets as well as outside it.
Many people in the exchanges are eligible for tax credits to help reduce the cost of the premiums, Rothman’s office said, though those subsidies cut off once a family of four has an income of $97,200 or more. The law requires all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty. In Minnesota, a low-cost plan for a single person last year had annual premiums of about $2,800, before any tax credits, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Most of the insurers in Minnesota’s individual market also plan to limit enrollment, to avoid taking on too many customers from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which is leaving the exchanges after financial losses, the state said. Taking on too many new customers could harm insurers’ finances or overwhelm the doctors and hospitals that they contract with.
Jonathan Gold, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Minnesotans would still have affordable options for coverage next year. “Headline rate changes do not reflect what these consumers actually pay because tax credits reduce the cost of coverage below the sticker price,” Gold said in a statement.
Of the about 70,000 people who had insurance on the Obamacare markets this year, 63 percent got subsidies last year, according to the commissioner’s office.
Minnesota State House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican, said the rate increases, along with allowing some insurers to limit enrollment, were creating a crisis.
“The unhealthy combination of massive cost increases and enrollment caps is creating a health care crisis for thousands of Minnesota families,” Daudt said in a statement.
Commissioner Rothman called for changes to the individual marketplace.
“Last year at this time when rates were announced, I said there was a serious need for reform in Minnesota’s individual market,” he said. “This year the need for reform is now without any doubt even more serious and urgent.” He called the rising rates “unsustainable and unfair” and said that people were being “crushed by the heavy burden of these costs.”
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