Extra insurance choice for consumers in final week as Medica re-enters market

Friday, February 3, 2017

Minnesotans buying health insurance on the state’s individual market have endured a lot the past year, from delayed tax forms to skyrocketing premiums and shrinking networks to growing uncertainty about the future.

In the past week, though, all the news has been good.

Following the Thursday passage of a $300 million premium relief package and Saturday’s extension of the 2017 enrollment period by a week to Feb. 8, Tuesday brought another welcome surprise: a last-minute re-entry into the market by an insurer that dropped out months ago.

Medica began selling individual market insurance again Tuesday, giving an extra choice of carrier to almost the entire state.

The Minnetonka-based insurer had pulled out of the individual market back in early November after it hit its enrollment cap of 50,000 total policies sold. That included new policies and expected renewals from Medica’s 2016 enrollment of about 43,000.

But more 2016 Medica customers chose not to renew their policies than the insurance company had expected. That meant Medica had fallen back below its 50,000 cap and went back on the market.

Medica is offering 2017 plans in all counties except Cook and Lake.

Its re-entry will have a particular impact in much of rural Minnesota. In 62 counties in the southern and western part of the state, Medica’s November departure left just a single insurance carrier, Blue Plus. Now, consumers in those counties will have an extra choice of plan — and an extra choice of provider network.

All but one of the health insurance carriers on Minnesota’s individual market this year set enrollment caps in an attempt to control costs. But only Medica had so far hit its cap, just 11 days after the start of open enrollment. UCare and HealthPartners have not yet reached their caps.

UCare’s cap of 30,000 customers gave it more room than Medica to grow enrollment over its 16,000 customers from 2016. HealthPartners’ 72,000-person cap left room for only 6,200 new customers, but it also lowered its potential customer base by pulling out of several Minnesota counties.

The Medica plans are available for purchase at mnsure.org.

People who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset part of the cost of their insurance. That’s $47,520 for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four.

Minnesotans who earn more than that can get help, too. A new law just passed by the state Legislature gives discounts of 25 percent of the premium to people ineligible for federal subsidies. Those benefits will take a few months to arrive but could save thousands of dollars to eligible Minnesotans.

This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. To view the original article, please click here