Soaring Obamacare premiums and declining insurer participation rates in exchanges across the country have been a frequent topic of conversation for us (see "Obamacare On "Verge Of Collapse" As Premiums Set To Soar Again In 2017" and "Stunning Maps Depict Collapse Of Obamacare "Coverage" In 2017"). Now, even early proponents of the "Affordable Care Act" are starting to distance themselves from a policy initiative which is, at this point, a complete and obvious failure. According to CBS, Democratic Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, recently called for changes to the healthcare exchanges in his state saying that "the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable."
“Ultimately I’m not trying to pass the buck here but the reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable,” Dayton said.
Dayton says changes to the program are critical, as he stepped away from one of his signature political platforms.
“The Affordable Care Act has many good features to it, it has achieved great success in terms of insuring more people, 20 million people across the country and providing access for people who have pre-existing conditions alike, but it’s got some serious blemishes right now and serious deficiencies,” Dayton said.
Premiums for 250,000 Minnesotans, or 5 percent of the population, insured under MNsure will skyrocket by 50 percent or more on some health plans.
“I think it’s a good step that the governor is now admitting that most Minnesotans can’t afford this and I think that’s a good first step to us now being able to work together to take some action to fix this so that we can find a solution that will get Minnesotans the health coverage they need at a cost they can afford,” Daudt said.
Of course, these comments come just 1 week after Minnesota Commerce Commissioner, Mike Rothman, posted a letter to the state's website saying that the state succeeded in preserving the exchanges for one more year by agreeing to massive rate hikes but warned they are on the "verge of collapse." The letter goes on to describe Minnesota's healthcare rate environment as "unsustainable and unfair" and notes that "middle-class Minnesotans" are being "crushed by the heavy burden of these costs."
”Last year at this time when rates were announced, I said there was a serious need for reform in Minnesota’s individual market,” said Rothman. “This year the need for reform is now without any doubt even more serious and urgent.”
He highlighted Governor Mark Dayton’s recent decision to reconvene his Task Force on Health Care Financing to make recommendations to ensure that Minnesota consumers have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance options in the individual market.
“While federal tax credits will help make monthly premiums more affordable for many Minnesotans, these rising insurance rates are both unsustainable and unfair,” said Rothman. “Middle-class Minnesotans in particular are being crushed by the heavy burden of these costs. There is a clear and urgent need for reform to protect Minnesota consumers who purchase their own health insurance.”
Rothman said the reconvened Task Force on Health Care Financing should consider any and all feasible reforms. Above all, he said, it should offer recommendations that can be implemented in the next year to improve market stability and rates for 2018.
“We received over 50 public comments from Minnesotans as part of our rate review,” said Rothman. “I personally read each one. They told heartbreaking stories about how hard-working families are struggling with very tough, painful choices because of these skyrocketing costs. They say that health insurance is unaffordable, and they’re right. This calls for immediate reforms as everyone's top priority.”
Rate increases for 2017 range from 50% - 67% across Minnesota.
But rates aren't the only issue. Most of the insurers participating in Minnesota’s individual market also plan to limit enrollment, to avoid taking on too many customers from other insurers that have pulled out of the exchanges all together.
However, Minnesota’s individual market also faces unique challenges because of a disproportionate concentration of individuals with serious medical conditions whose high claims costs must be absorbed by a relatively small risk pool, pushing up rates for everyone in the individual market.
Citing ongoing financial losses, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced in late June that it is leaving the individual market, except for its Blue Plus HMO affiliate. The company’s decision affects approximately 103,000 Minnesotans, or about 40 percent of the state’s total individual market.
Rothman said that, following Blue Cross’s announcement, Minnesota’s individual market for 2017 was on the verge of collapse as all of the other insurers indicated that they were also prepared to exit this market.
“The Commerce Department pursued every option within its power to avert a collapse this year,” said Rothman. “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. In addition, each insurer except for Blue Plus will limit its total 2017 enrollment to manage its financial or provider network capacity to absorb the many current Blue Cross consumers who will be shopping for new plans."
Of course, as Politico points out, Dayton clearly got some "negative feedback" from democrats on his moment of honesty as his staffers quickly took to various media outlets to blame republicans for Obamacare's failures.
"The governor wants to make it clear that the Republicans in Congress are to blame for their unwillingness to make improvements necessary to make the Affordable Care Act more successful," Dayton spokesman Sam Fettig said in an email to POLITICO.
Meanwhile, this video really says it all: