Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

Minnesota not extending policies

A calm day in September at the MNsure contact center. (AP photo/Jim Mone)
A calm day in September at the MNsure contact center. (AP photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday that Minnesotans will not be able to keep existing insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Last week, the Democrat said he supported President Barack Obama's proposal to let consumers keep coverage in place.

Dayton's decision not to grant a one-year extension for existing plans came after major Minnesota insurance companies blasted the proposal.

When Obama made his announcement, Dayton said extending policies that might not meet all PPACA standards would give affected Minnesotans more time to compare policies on the state's insurance exchange "for options with better coverage at better prices."

But, in a letter to Dayton Monday, the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans said the delay would cause "major market disruptions" in the individual insurance marketplace and drive up insurance premiums. Julie Brunner of the council also wrote that it would have left almost no time for companies to further revise rates before Jan. 1, when the coverage is set to start.

Dayton acknowledged those concerns in a letter to Brunner.

"Your letter makes clear that making the program changes offered by the president last week would be unworkable for your members and would likely cause more expensive health coverage for Minnesotans," Dayton wrote.

The Council of Health Plans represents seven of Minnesota's largest insurance companies: Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne, Sanford Health Plan of Minnesota, UCare and Metropolitan Health Plan. In all, those companies provide insurance to about 4 million people.

The council said about 140,000 Minnesotans had been notified in recent weeks that their existing plans would be subject to major changes under PPACA. Under PPACA, insurance companies had been counting on profits from selling new plans to healthy people in order to offset losses due to the requirement that they sell plans to people with existing health problems.

But Obama had announced the one-year extension last week in response to frustration from people losing existing health plans despite the president's earlier promise that would not happen. The plans were up for cancellation because they do not meet the minimum PPACA requirements.

Minnesota is not the only state under Democratic control whose elected leaders enthusiastically backed PPACA but are now rejecting Obama's one-year policy extension proposal. Officials in Massachusetts, Washington, Rhode Island and Vermont have also said consumers will not be able to keep canceled health plans.

Dayton wrote in his letter to Brunner that he believed plans available on MNsure, Minnesota's insurance exchange, would be affordable, offer better benefits and contain strong consumer protections. Brunner praised Dayton's decision, calling it "the best course for Minnesota's marketplace."

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