Insurers seek lower premiums in Minnesota individual market

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — Health insurers in Minnesota’s individual market are proposing mostly decreased premium rates for 2019, with average proposed decreases ranging from 3 percent to more than 12 percent for consumers, according to data released Friday by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

The four largest providers in the individual market are proposing decreases ranging from 7 percent to about 12 percent. The proposed rates are preliminary; they will be reviewed by the Commerce Department and finalized later this year.

The rate proposals are a sign of stability in a market that’s seen premium spikes under the federal Affordable Care Act. They also reflect a newfound profitability for insurers in the market, as well as the impact of a state-funded reinsurance program that offsets costs for consumers with unusually high medical expenses.

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That program, enacted in 2017 and in effect for 2019, offsets 80 percent of a person’s total annual medical claims costs between $50,000 and $250,000. State law authorizes up to $542 million for the reinsurance program in 2018-2019.

“Minnesotans can breathe a little easier knowing that their health care rates will likely go down next year,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a statement.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said the proposed rate reductions are good news for many people but that insurance is still too expensive for many Minnesota families.

“Last year, over 349,000 people went without health insurance, because prices are still way too high,” Dayton said. “Minnesota taxpayers should not have to keep subsidizing insurance companies to hold down health care costs. We need a marketplace solution.”

He urged the next governor and Legislature to allow families access to lower-cost quality health coverage. He had proposed a plan to do that, but Republican lawmakers rejected it.

The individual market primarily serves people under age 65 who are self-employed or don’t get insurance coverage from their employer. About 162,000 Minnesota residents were buying coverage in the market this spring through the MNsure exchange or directly from some carriers.

The Commerce Department said the actual change in rates for individual consumers could vary based on health plan specifics, age and geography.

Still, questions remain on the federal level about the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s administration said it would no longer defend key parts of the act. But officials with Minnesota’s health insurance exchange have advised consumers to look at the proposed rates to see how much they could save through available tax credits.