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An Obamacare Exit in Minnesota Will Raise Premiums by at Least 50 Percent

The Affordable Care Act needs to be fixed. We looked at what solutions are on the table today.

By Francie Diep


(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

Obamacare premiums in the North Star State will rise 50 to 67 percent in 2017, after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota pulled out of the state’s health-insurance marketplace almost entirely, the state’s Commerce Department announced today. Minnesota’s largest insurer had found it too expensive to cover marketplace buyers, the company told MPR News, and announced its exit in June.

The Commerce Department said that, immediately after Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement, the Minnesota marketplace “was on the verge of collapse.” Regulators had to step in to work out a deal with the remaining insurers.The price hike was part of the deal.

Minnesota’s troubles are just the latest example of a health-insurance company leaving Obamacare’s individual marketplaces. Earlier this year, Aetna and UnitedHealth Group ended most of their Obamacare plans across the United States citing high costs. Big Obamacare exits can mean unaffordable premium increases as competition between companies vanishes. And for many, they’re a sign that the Affordable Care Act overall is unsustainable. Even the act’s supporters concede that it needs some tweaking.

Big Obamacare exits can mean unaffordable premium increases as competition between companies vanishes.

In August, Pacific Standard reported on some proposed Obamacare fixes that prioritize keeping insurers in the market. The experts’ favorite solution was re-insurance, whereby the government collects money from insurers to give out to companies that are “unlucky” and happen to have fewer healthy enrollees. But the Government Accountability Office ruled last week that the Department of Health and Human Services implemented re-insurance illegally. The department denies the charge.

Now, Democratic politicians are advocating for one of the most controversial of the proposed Obamacare remedies — the public option, in which the government would up competition by offering its own insurance plan. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton began voicing her support for the public option in February, the New York Times reports.

Meanwhile, Republican politicians such as presidential nominee Donald Trump are in favor of increasing competition by encouraging health-insurance companies to sell across state lines, according to the Times. Trump also wants to impose limits on how much federal money states can spend on Medicaid and to drop the law requiring all Americans to have health insurance.

Open enrollment for Obamacare marketplace plans begins November 1st. How many people enroll and how healthy those people are will weigh heavily on what actions health-insurance companies take next. And just seven days after that, the U.S. will hold its presidential election, putting one of two very different candidates — with differing health plans — in office.