New MNsure rates fuel political fight

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The release today of new 2015 rates for Minnesota’s health insurance exchange did nothing to quiet the ongoing partisan disagreement over MNsure.

Democrats hailed the 4.5 percent average rate increase as proof that free-market competition works, while Republicans called the numbers deceptive.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton weighed in following the Department of Commerce announcement, saying the new MNsure rates are not perfect but very good. He noted that most consumers will have a broader range of coverage options from the five participating insurance companies, as well as additional tax credits to help cover the premiums.

The state’s lowest-cost and largest provider, PreferredOne, announced last month it was dropping out of the exchange.

Still, Minnesota’s rates under the Affordable Care Act are expected to remain the lowest in the nation, according to state officials. Dayton said that ranking is cause for celebration.

“I realize that we’re 34 days before an election. But it is permissible to actually recognize and even applaud good news,” Dayton said.

Republicans were not celebrating.

Dayton’s GOP challenger in next month’s election, Jeff Johnson, criticized the incumbent governor. Johnson said Dayton failed to deliver on a promise to decrease the cost of health insurance for middle-class Minnesotans.

“Middle-class Minnesotans deserve a governor who understands and represents them instead of just paying them lip service,” Johnson said in a written statement.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, echoed that charge. Hann also said Minnesotans who are currently enrolled in the lowest cost plan will see a 22 percent increase in their premiums next year.

“I think the 4.5 percent rate increase is completely bogus,” Hann said. “It is deceptive. I think that once the numbers get known, the average amount of increase that the consumer will pay, the actual guy who’s buying the insurance, will be much higher.”

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