Minnesota uninsured rate drops to all-time low

June 12, 2014

Obamacare enrollment in Minnesota is now closed. People who get married or divorced, change jobs, have a child or experience another qualifying event may be eligible for a special enrollment period. Those who don’t qualify for a special enrollment period will have to wait until Nov. 15 to sign up for private coverage in 2015.

Enrollment for Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare, and small businesses continues throughout the year. American Indians can also enroll throughout the year.

Individuals who remain uninsured may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.

Through June 10, 237,707 people obtained coverage through MNCare, the state-run marketplace. About 51,600 people have enrolled in private health plans, 49,115 enrolled in MinnesotaCare, and 137,034 enrolled in Medical Assistance (Medicaid). While Minnesota has far exceeded its 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.

A study commissioned by MNsure and conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that the state’s uninsured rate dropped to just 4.9 percent over the course of the 2014 open enrollment period — the lowest rate in state history. The uninsured rate was 8.9 percent as of Sept. 30, 2013. The study’s author called the drop “unprecedented in Minnesota,” and the state now trails only Massachusetts in the percentage of residents who have health insurance coverage.

Early on, MNsure’s launch appeared to go reasonably well. However, technical problems escalated, and MNsure faced consumer complaints, reviews by the state legislative auditor, and questions from a legislative oversight committee. Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), a division of UnitedHealth Group, was brought in to diagnose the problems with MNsure’s website and call center. QSSI was the general contractor that led efforts to fix HealthCare.gov. QSSI found serious IT problems, severe understaffing at the call center, and flawed management structure and processes. In April, MNsure hired Deloitte Consulting to fix the IT problems and get the website functioning properly ahead of open enrollment for 2015. Deloitte has been involved in successful state-run marketplaces for Connecticut, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Washington.

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. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area had the lowest rates in the country ($154), central Minnesota had the third lowest rates ($166), northwestern Minnesota had the fifth least expensive rates ($171), and western and north central Minnesota had the eighth least expensive rates ($180).

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

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.

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