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Health insurance crisis in Minnesota

It appears that MNsure has destroyed the availability of health insurance for the middle class here in Minnesota in less than three years. The Democrat politicians in Minnesota designed and forced through MNsure in response to the federal government's Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). MNsure and Obamacare were to create a continuum of affordable health insurance for people of all income levels and lead to a healthier population and more efficient health care system.

Since the beginning of MNsure in 2014, health insurance premiums have raised an average of 35 percent to 65 percent per year. In other words a policy that cost $350 per month in 2014 will now in 2017 cost $1,181 per month. While these premium increases are intolerable, now there is lack of available health insurance coverage.

Earlier this year BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota (BCBSMN) announced it was ceasing to offer the majority of their individual portfolio products. It is estimated that over 100,000 individuals are affected by this action and must seek new coverage elsewhere.

In the past week, HealthPartners has announced they are only going to offer individual plans in an 11 county area of the Metro, including St. Cloud. This action means that about 9,100 individuals must seek new coverage elsewhere. In addition, HealthPartners is placing an enrollment limitation of 66,800 policies in the 11 county area, which appears to be their present enrollment.

Medica announced this week that while they are offering individual plans statewide they will only accept new applications through the MNsure exchange. In other words, coverage cannot be purchased through a local agent/broker. In addition, Medica will "not" pay any commissions to an agent/broker on new business for 2017. (Note: This no commission pay is only for the State of Minnesota business.) Medica is also restricting the number of new member enrollment for 2017. They have set their maximum policies at 50,000 and they are presently at 43,000.

To recap, between BCBSMN and HealthPartners there are over 109,000 individuals that will be looking for "new" health insurance coverage for 2017. Medica, the only major player left, has about 7,000 new application spaces available. In other words, it appears that over 100,000 individuals that presently have health insurance coverage will not be able to find new coverage. Keep in mind that these 100,000 individuals more likely have had coverage for years and do not qualify for any government assistance. In other words, these middle class individuals that have been prudent about their health care needs and have paid their premiums for years on their own are being abandoned.

Again, the reason for MNsure and Obamacare were to reduce the number of Minnesotans without insurance. Now it appears these programs have made it impossible for individuals to even have access to purchasing health insurance coverage. Remember, that these 100,000 plus individuals have more than likely had coverage for many years and now they are just out of luck.

In conclusion, Obamacare and MNsure were presented as programs that would create a continuum of affordable health insurance for people of all income levels and lead to a healthier population and more efficient health care system. Well folks, words are used for a selling point but fact and outcome is what reveals the truth.

The question to ask is, are we in a better position today concerning health care coverage than we were three or six years ago. The facts tell the truth!

Contact your federal and state elected officials and hold them accountable for what has happened.

(Jim Stengrim is an independent insurance agent in Park Rapids.)

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