New public health insurance could cover 100,000 Minnesotans, state estimates

New public health insurance could cover 100,000 Minnesotans, state estimates

A public option competing with Minnesota’s private health insurance companies could attract more than 100,000 people but cost state taxpayers up to $364 million a year.

The estimates, included in a study released Thursday by the state Commerce Department, come ahead of what is likely to be a divisive debate in the Legislature over expanding the state’s role in providing insurance to Minnesotans.

Gov. Tim Walz and Democratic lawmakers say health insurance would become more affordable if there were a public option to compete with existing private plans. Republicans oppose public intervention in the private insurance market, saying it would ultimately raise premiums. Hospital and insurance lobby groups also oppose the public option.

While a public option would provide coverage to the roughly 4% of Minnesotans who are uninsured, supporters also say it would provide cheaper and better coverage for people who can only purchase basic coverage through MNsure, the state’s online marketplace for individual health plans. benefits. House Majority Leader Jamie Long, D-Minneapolis, hosted an online forum Tuesday to highlight how Minnesotans are suffering from a lack of choice in the individual insurance market.

“They can’t use it because it’s too expensive,” Long said. “Their deductibles are too high. They really only cover catastrophe, which means they can’t get the care they need on a day-to-day basis.”

The study analyzes the consequences of lifting income limits and opening up Minnesota health care services. This is a public health insurance option for individuals and families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid indigent benefits but have no workplace benefits and cannot afford the top private insurance on the individual market.

The analysis by national actuarial firm Milliman also looked at the benefits of offering a private plan similar to Minnesota Medicare in the private market.

Both would attract about 471,000 Minnesotans, but only 100,000 to 150,000 would sign up, the study found. After federal subsidies and premiums paid by enrollees, the state would pay $86 million to $364 million annually to provide a public option to many Minnesotans.

The proposal has created an unusual opposition coalition, with the two groups traditionally competing for a share of health care funding. A study commissioned by the Minnesota Council of Health Plans shows that if the state moved all existing MinnesotaCare enrollees to the private market, the state would gain more affordable insurance options and increase enrollment.

The Minnesota Hospital Association has complained about public programs like Minnesota Medicare paying rates below the cost of providing care and opposes any expansion that could harm struggling hospitals.

“Hundreds of patients are stuck in hospitals every day, and hospitals across the state are being forced to cut services at an unprecedented rate to stay open,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the Hospital Association. “

The DFL-controlled Legislature considered creating a public option during the 2023 session, then delayed the plan and sought analysis.

Minnesota’s Commerce and Human Services secretary made several recommendations to the Legislature Thursday, including conducting more research to see if a public option would provide equitable benefits to disadvantaged groups. Nearly 22% of Hispanic Minnesotans are uninsured in Minnesota, while less than 3% of white non-Hispanic Minnesotans are uninsured, according to the state Department of Health.

Minnesotans seeking better health insurance options include Lisa Phillips, whose family raises livestock, farms and farms on 450 acres in Good Thunder, about 14 miles south of Mankato. Pumpkins and produce. Phillips said during Long’s public forum that her family recently went uninsured because they could not afford the $25,500 annual premiums and maintain their business. She said the decision could delay the identification and treatment of her husband’s cancer and worsen his prognosis.

Phillips said she wants to pass the farm down to her daughter and son-in-law, but doesn’t want them to engage in farming unless they have access to affordable health insurance.

“This could be the end of our family farm,” she said.

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