Dayton: Minnesota won’t extend insurance coverage

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday that Minnesotans will not be able to keep existing insurance coverage under the federal health care law, despite saying last week that he supported President Barack Obama’s plan to allow it.

Dayton’s decision not to grant the one-year extension on existing plans followed harsh criticism of the proposal by major Minnesota insurance companies. After Obama’s announcement last week, Dayton said the extra year before existing policies were canceled would give affected Minnesotans more time to compare policies on the state’s insurance exchange “for options with better coverage at better prices.”

But in a letter to Dayton Monday, the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans said the delay would cause “major market disruptions” in the individual insurance marketplace and drive up insurance premiums. Julie Brunner of the council also wrote it would have left almost no time to further revise rates in time for the Jan. 1 start of coverage under the federal law.

Email newsletter signup

Dayton acknowledged those concerns in a letter back to Brunner.

“Your letter makes clear that making the program changes offered by the president last week would be unworkable for your members and would likely cause more expensive health coverage for Minnesotans,” Dayton wrote.

The Council of Health Plans represents seven of Minnesota’s largest insurance companies: Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne, Sanford Health Plan of Minnesota, UCare and Metropolitan Health Plan. In all, those companies provide insurance to about 4 million people.

The council said about 140,000 Minnesotans had been notified in recent weeks that their existing plans would be subject to major changes under the federal law. Under the new federal law, insurance companies had been counting on profits from selling new plans to healthy people in order to offset losses due to the requirement that they sell plans to people with existing health problems.

But Obama had announced the one-year extension last week in response to frustration from people losing existing health plans despite the president’s earlier promise that would not happen. The plans were up for cancellation because they do not meet the minimum coverage requirements of the federal health care law.

Minnesota is not the only state under Democratic control whose elected leaders enthusiastically seized on the health care law, but are now rejecting Obama’s one-year delay. Officials in Massachusetts, Washington, Rhode Island and Vermont have also said consumers will not be able to keep canceled health plans.

Dayton wrote in his letter to Brunner that he believed plans available on MNsure, Minnesota’s insurance exchange, would be affordable, offer better benefits and contain strong consumer protections. Brunner praised Dayton’s decision, calling it “the best course for Minnesota’s marketplace.”