Many of you have contacted me with questions about the implications of Obamacare in Minnesota on your families and businesses. The first four months of operations for MNsure, Minnesotas Obamacare health insurance exchange implemented by Governor Dayton and state Democrats, have been extremely disappointing. The new state agency spent well over $100 million in public dollars, fumbled personal and private information, fell short of projected enrollment and faced immense public scrutiny for failing to keep lawmakers and the public informed of problems. For those who were allowed to keep their health coverage under Obamacare, many will see higher premiums, higher deductibles, or both. Health coverage will take a much larger chunk of family budgets due to the poor judgment of our state leaders who brought Obamacare to Minnesota.
Called MNsure, this new bureaucracy employs over 80 new government workers to sell health insurance plans through a website that is estimated to cost a third of a billion dollars by 2016. Obamacare represents the most dramatic shift in federal health care law in decades, increasing the power of the federal agencies over states.
Prior to MNsure, the private market had options for purchasing health plans on cost-comparison websites (for example, eHealth.com). Whats more, Minnesota already had the standard benefits that are called for in Obamacare. 91% of Minnesotans had health care coverage, and of those who did not, more than three-fourths were eligible for programs of coverage.
Many are concerned we have replaced a nation-leading health care system that offered flexible, higher quality, lower cost care for one that is more expensive. For our area, current MNsure rates are more expensive for individuals and families than pre-MNsure private market rates. MNsure officials forgot to measure who had insurance coverage before they began enrolling Minnesotans, so we actually wont know how many of the uninsured have now been converted to insured. This was the entire premise of Obamacare to cover those who could not access coverage.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Will My Costs Go Up?
For many individuals and families, insurance through MNsure is more expensive, or the plans that are affordable do not offer what they need. MNsure operations will primarily be funded by a tax of up to 3.5% on insurance plans sold through it. The tax will increase costs for consumers in- side, and outside, the exchange. Furthermore, by 2016, over $300 million will have been spent just on MNsure operations and the internet portal without one dollar going to actual health care.
Will My Personal Health Care Information Be Kept Private?
As you enroll through MNsure, you are asked to provide personal information. Due to insufficient and questionable data policies put in place by MNsure executives, earlier this fall a MNsure employee inadvertently emailed thousands of social security numbers to an unexpecting recipient, putting these people at risk of identity theft. MNsure remains vulnerable and current law is inadequate to protect from improper use.
Will I be Able to Keep My Doctor?
It has been reported that an estimated 280,000 Minnesotans were forced to give up their plans and doctors/clinics due to Obamacare. Despite promises that MNsure would work like Expedia or Travelocity, it still lacks the basic function to search if your provider or doctor will be covered under any given plan. At the end of the day, it is a seven person, politically appointed board that has the authority to decide which insurance plans Minnesotans can choose.
Who is Enrolling?
The latest enrollment information on what age groups are enrolling coverage is concerning. Planners had hoped for around 1/3 of all enrollees to be between ages 18-35, but through January 4, just 20.4% of MNsure individual market enrollees were in that age group. If enrollment patterns continue like this, youll likely see even higher insurance premiums next year.
Finally, on a personal note, having spent the last seven years as your state representative in St. Paul, I must say that this failed rollout of health insurance reform is one of the worst demonstrations of government leadership I have ever seen. While the bill to construct MNsure received only Democrat votes last spring, I joined many of my colleagues in offering constructive feedback, alternatives, and fair warning about the dangers ahead. Unfortunately, we can now see many of the predicted problems have become real problems for the budgets and health of thousands of Minnesotans.
Please note that I am carefully watching MNsure as our legislative session approaches. Lawmakers return to work on February 25 and this issue will be a main topic of discussion. Thank you for the opportunity to work on your behalf.