Health insurance rate increases mean uncertain future for many Minnesotans

MARSHALL – One month ago today, health insurance companies selling individual plans announced a proposed rate increase for 2017. That didn’t sit well with many politicians, or the Land Stewardship Project, Minnesota Nurses Association and TakeAction Minnesota, which collectively decried the proposal and called for ongoing discussions about the state of health care coverage in Minnesota.

This week, riding shotgun with a national trend, Minnesota rate increases – ranging from a 50 percent average hike for HealthPartners plans to a 67 percent jump on average on UCare -were finalized, re-opening a wound that will be slow healing for many Minnesotans.

The aforementioned groups offered the following statement on the increases:

“The 50 to 67 percent rate increases for individual health insurance plans are outrageous and clearly unsustainable for the 275,000 Minnesotans who have no other place to get healthcare coverage,” the groups said in an email. “These price jumps come on top of large increases last year. It can’t continue.”

The groups say the cost of health insurance hurts Minnesotans across the state, especially farmers, other self-employed people, small businesses and rural residents. They say the state needs to create a system that fairly shares the cost of covering those who have the most significant healthcare needs. Now, they say, these costs are being unfairly shouldered by people with individual insurance plans.

“This means two things,” said Paul Sobocinski of the Land Stewardship Project. “It means that the farmer population is going to face a substantial increase once again – similar to what happened to them last year – and it means to get through this coming year they need to carefully look at going through MNsure and see if the tax credit will help bring down the costs.”

Sobocinski said the rate increase is a clear sign of a broken system in terms of having quality health care delivered through for-profit insurance companies. It’s insurance companies, he said, not MNsure or the Affordable Care Act, that are the underlying problems.

“This can’t be left unchecked,” he said. “There would be an absolute outcry if all Minnesotans faced the same factors. We need to look at reform and helping people who are in this market – farmers, small business owners – are taken care of. We need to address this in the coming Legislature.”