MNsure not due to release premium rates until Oct.ST. PAUL, Minn. — Consumers hoping for official quotes on how much they might have to pay for health plans sold on Minnesota's health insurance exchange, dubbed MNsure, are going to have to wait.
By: Associated Press, INFORUM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Consumers hoping for official quotes on how much they might have to pay for health plans sold on Minnesota's health insurance exchange, dubbed MNsure, are going to have to wait.
Several other states, including California and Oregon, already have published the premium rates that health insurers want to charge for plans to be sold on the exchanges in those states. While carriers have filed their rate proposals with Minnesota regulators, state law requires keeping them confidential until the exchange goes live in October, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday.
The state exchanges are key parts of the Obama administration's health care overhaul, which seeks to extend insurance coverage to all Americans. They're aimed particularly at people who don't currently have insurance and smaller businesses that aren't currently providing it to their employees. About 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to get coverage through MNsure, including 300,000 who currently don't have insurance.
MNsure provides calculators on its website that provide estimates of what families and small businesses might expect to pay — and how much they'll qualify for in federal tax credits to help cover premium costs — but they're based on nationwide models for how exchanges are supposed to work and not the carriers' actual proposals for Minnesota. And MNsure officials have said the calculators likely overstate premiums for people whose incomes are too high to qualify for subsidies.
And important potential customers of MNsure are eager to find out for sure how much coverage might cost them.
Kate Johansen, who works on health issues for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said premium costs are a chief concern for small businesses.
"In talking with small employers around the state, many have expressed concerns about what the premiums will be once those premiums are revealed in the fall," Johansen said.
A key state lawmaker is pushing to make some official rate information available sooner.
"I think if folks are hearing about the rates over the summer, that may intrigue them a bit," said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, chief House author of the legislation that established MNsure.
Minnesota requires insurers applying to sell plans in the state to submit rate proposals to the Department of Commerce, which ultimately decides whether the plans can be sold. The law requires the state to keep that information confidential until the plans go on sale. For plans offered on the exchange, that date will be Oct. 1, when MNSure goes live with policies that take effect Jan. 1. Nine carriers have submitted proposals and are awaiting approval.
Atkins said he supports keeping the full rate filings confidential. He said it fosters competition among insurers.
"If they can see each other's rates, then what they tend to do is just under-bid one another by a nickel or two, and it doesn't drive down prices," he said.
But Atkins said his reading of the law is that the state can reveal the proposed premium rates before Oct. 1 if the insurers that submitted them remain anonymous. He said doing so would inform the consumers about what they can expect, which he said would be helpful because the exchange will rely on a large number of enrollees for its success.. And he said it may allow insurers who submitted rates higher than other carriers might get to take another shot at becoming more competitive.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.