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Minnesota health insurance exchange

4.5% rate hike on MNsure, but PreferredOne rates up 63%

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Minnesota’s state-run exchange, MNsure, was quite successful at enrolling residents in 2014 — despite considerable technical problems. A study commissioned by MNsure and conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 8.9 percent in the fall of 2013 to just 4.9 percent over the course of the 2014 open enrollment period — the lowest rate in state history. The study’s author called the drop “unprecedented in Minnesota,” and the state now has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation.

Because MNsure was so efficient with enrollment in 2014, the exchange has acknowledged that the “low hanging fruit” is gone, and they will have to work harder to enroll the remaining uninsured Minnesota residents during the 2015 open enrollment.

Fixing MNsure

MNsure officials, staff members and consultants are hard at work to the marketplace better for consumers in 2015.

In April, MNsure hired Deloitte Consulting to audit MNsure’s technology and improve the website to make enrolling in coverage and updating life events easier and more streamlined. Deloitte has been involved in successful state-run marketplaces for Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Washington.

The software upgrades were installed in August, and system testing is scheduled to begin in early September to ensure that they are glitch-free by the time 2015 open enrollment begins on Nov. 15. These upgrades should fix most of the technology problems MNsure faced in 2014.

In addition to a smoother, more functional website, MNsure is increasing its call center and support staff so that consumers will see far shorter wait times when they contact the exchange for assistance during the second open enrollment period. There will also be more in-person assisters in Minnesota during the 2015 open enrollment period. MNsure is encouraging residents to utilize the exchange’s assister directory to find local navigators and brokers who can help with the enrollment process and set up appointments soon, in order to beat the open enrollment rush.

In October, MNsure announced the launch of dedicated service line for agents and brokers, which will reduce wait times for individual consumers as well as agents and brokers.

2015 rates and participating insurers

PreferredOne, which offered the lowest rates in the nation in 2014 and captured a large portion of 2014 enrollees, announced it will not participate in MNsure for 2015. PreferredOne has not said much about its decision, other than remaining on the exchange was “not administratively and financially sustainable.” A Star Tribune business writer attributed PreferredOne’s departure as a market dynamics rather than a problem with MNsure.

Consumers who bought a PreferredOne plan through MNsure for 2014 can renew their policies for 2015 by working directly with the insurer. However, PreferredOne rates will go up an average of 63 percent, and consumers won’t be qualify for subsidies if they shop outside the exchange.

Five insurers will offer individual and family policies on MNsure in 2015: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Blue Plus, Health Partners, Medica, and UCare. MNsure will offer 84 plans statewide, up from 78 for 2014. Blue Plus is new to the exchange for 2015.

Minnesota officials announced 2015 premiums will increase 4.5 percent on average for the four insurers returning to MNsure from 2014. MNsure critics characterized the official announcement as misleading as it fails to take into account low-cost 2014 plans from PreferredOne.

2015 renewal process

For people who have already enrolled with MNsure in 2014, the exchange has said they will be offering “both active and passive renewal” and will be contacting enrollees to let them know what – if anything – they need to do in order to keep their plan unchanged for 2015.

For enrollees who are receiving premium subsidies, it’s important to keep in mind that if the local benchmark plan changes, subsidy amounts could also change. For most consumers, it will be worthwhile to double check the new rates and subsidy amounts before opting to renew a 2014 plan.

2014 enrollment update

According to a MNsure press release, 300,085 people obtained health insurance through the exchange as of Aug. 21: 53,770 people enrolled in private health plans, 65,749 enrolled in MinnesotaCare (health insurance program for uninsured, working residents), and 180,566 enrolled in Medical Assistance (Medicaid). While Minnesota has far exceeded its 2014 goal of 135,000 signups — which was set in October 2013 — for overall enrollment, the mix is much different than expected. Enrollment in Medical Assistance is much higher than expected, while enrollment in private health insurance is much lower.

MNsure background

Four insurers offered individual policies through the marketplace for 2014: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne, and UCare. Kaiser Health News reported that Minnesota offered some of the lowest premiums for silver (mid-level) plans in the U.S. Four of Minnesota’s nine regions made Kaiser’s list of the 10 least expensive places to buy health insurance.

While low premiums are good for consumers, they raise financial concerns for the marketplace. Beginning in 2015, MNsure’s operating costs will be funded with a 3.5 percent withhold of premiums. With private health plan enrollment well below target and lower-than-expected premiums, budget projections show MNsure with a $2 million to $4 million deficit by the end of 2015.

Minnesota health insurance exchange links

MNsure
855-3MNSURE (855-366-7873)

State Exchange Profile: Minnesota
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Minnesota’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.