State lawmakers trade barbs over MNsure rate woes

State Rep. Greg Davids and other House Republicans outlined proposals for lowering health insurance costs. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Minnesota lawmakers called Wednesday for a quick fix to the state’s troubled individual health insurance market, which is expected to see huge premium increases in January.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said during a news conference that solutions are needed quickly to avoid a “health care crisis.”

“The price hikes that were announced recently of 50 or 60 percent or more are absolutely unaffordable for Minnesota families,” Daudt said. “This is really unacceptable.”

Daudt and other Republican legislators outlined several proposals aimed at lowering health care costs. They want tax breaks, direct premium relief, greater billing transparency and some federal waivers to expand coverage choices. Another proposal would end the health insurance exchange known as MNsure.

Daudt blamed Democrats for ignoring the crisis and for blocking previous GOP attempts to change MNsure.

“We’ve put forth some real solutions that will help Minnesotans immediately,” he said. “They’re not going to be the silver bullet or answer to everyone’s problems, but it will be a start. But what I need is a Democrat in the state of Minnesota to admit that there’s a crisis and to join in solving that problem.”

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, also urged Democrats help address the issue.

“We didn’t create the mess, but we’re willing to help clean up your mess,” Davids said.

House Democrats followed with their own news conference and their own election-year finger pointing.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said too many families are struggling with increasing health care and insurance costs, and he’s willing to meet this week to discuss potential solutions. But Thissen criticized Republicans for not taking action during their past two years in the majority.

“Republicans have a pattern of waiting until the last minute and then trying to say ‘oh man, we have an emergency and we need to solve it.’ That’s what they’re doing again,” Thissen said. “Where have you been for two years?”

The Minnesota Department of Commerce says about 5 percent of state residents, roughly 250,000, currently purchase health coverage on the individual market. Most Minnesotans are covered through employer insurance or public programs.

In announcing the 2017 rates last week, state Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the increases were the result a disproportionate concentration of people with serious medical conditions in the individual market.

  • Crikey

    I’m one of those affected by the increase in cost and a lack of choices in the individual plans. I’m a democrat and I strongly supported the ACA when it was introduced. But now I have to agree with the republicans – it probably helped a lot of people but it has certainly hurt me and many more like me. I’ve been insured with BC/BS for almost 30 years. First through my company’s group plan and then, after having wound down the business, through an individual plan. This year my premiums went up by 75%. I already have a high deductible HSA plan. Next year BC/BS has decided to not offer coverage. What are we supposed to do? I’m considered too rich for subsidized care but yet I think it’s profoundly unfair that I should have to pay twice or thrice as much as someone else of the same age and health. Repealing the ACA sounds pretty good to me.

  • LeeH

    Ditto the previous comment. When BCBS stopped offering coverage, we went with Health Partners. Now we’ve been notified that they will no longer cover our area in out-state Minnesota. Our only choice is now Medica. So much for competition. 2015 coverage for 2, $835, 2016 coverage for 2, $1230. 2017 coverage for 2????

  • jean hanvik

    Like so many others, my husband and I will now be officially priced out of the health insurance market. Both self-employed, we make too much to qualify for MNsure, but not enough to afford decent health insurance. This year, we pay over $800/month for a $13,000 deductible policy! We are driving a 14-year-old car with 150,000 miles on it because we cannot afford health insurance and a car payment. Something’s gotta give!!!

  • delores barton

    I wonder if the state is just taking the word of insurance companies that they are losing so much money and, therefore, need such huge rate increases. If insurers have shown the state any real proof, is it actually true or have they added all sorts of false administrative expenses to it? This “give us huge rate increases” or we’re leaving the state sounds a lot like what the Vikings (and before that the Twins) said to get their stadium, though I doubt that they ever really considered moving, nor do I think most of these insurers were really considering abandoning the whole state, just certain parts. We are getting huge increases every year, and each year getting higher deductibles and copays and being shifted more and more to HMOs, with their limited networks so you have to change doctors. I find it hard to believe even if they do have more sick people to cover that they could be losing a lot of money, since they have designed these policies so that sick people get very poor coverage. You pay all this money for lousy insurance. I wonder how the politicians in this state would like to have such lousy insurance. They should open up MinnesotaCare to the working- and middle-class people who need insurance, and dump MNsure and brokers. I bet they would save a lot of money. Others could still buy from private insurers, as they did before, if they wanted to.