Minnesota's Obamacare exchanges are in an 'emergency situation'

Another state is seeing its Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, exchanges hit some serious roadblocks.

In a release on Friday, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, who oversees the exchanges on which people in Minnesota not receiving insurance through their employer or government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, said premiums will rise as much as 67% for some insurers.

According to the release, Rothman said the exchanges are “very near collapse” as Blue Cross Blue Shield pulled out of the market, citing large financial losses. This exit is indicative of the mood of the other insurers, who Rothman described as “prepared to exit this market.”

Part of the problem is the federal reinsurance program which used to assist insurers that may have taken on sicker patients and endured losses is expiring this year, removing a safety net for many insurers.

“The Commerce Department pursued every option within its power to avert a collapse this year,” said Rothman in the release. “We succeeded in saving the market for 2017, with only Blue Cross leaving. But the rates insurers are charging will increase significantly to address their expected costs and the loss of federal reinsurance support.”

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Rothman described it in even more dire terms.

“These rising insurance rates are unsustainable and unfair,” Rothman told Pioneer Press’ David Montgomery. “This is a real emergency situation.”

The issues facing Minnesota are familiar, states like Tennessee are also seeing large premium increases and a lack of competition among providers as companies exit the market. Even large, national insurers like Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare have been rolling back their Obamacare coverage.

Thankfully, only 250,000 people, or 5% of the population in the state, get their insurance through the exchanges. Additionally, subsidies are available for people that make $47,520 or less a year, or for a family of four making less than $97,200 in total.

Rothman said that for those not receiving subsidies, the premium increases are “unsustainable and unfair” and called for reform. Unfortunately, on the federal level the standoff between the Republican-led legislature and President Obama make any reform unlikely until at least after the election.

The Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal regulator that oversees the marketplaces, has announced reforms that could help alleviate some of the issues and mitigate losses for insurance companies. Additionally, a push by the Department of Health and Human Services to get young people to sign up for Obamacare, which would reduce losses for insurers, was rolled out last week.

These reforms, however, are of little solace for Minnesotans this year.

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