Feds OK Minnesota plan to lower health coverage rates

The Trump administration has given Minnesota the go ahead to proceed with a plan to lower individual market health insurance premiums next year.

Minnesota lawmakers passed a $542 million financial safety net for insurance companies last session to stabilize the state's individual health insurance market. But the plan, known as reinsurance, still needed a waiver from the federal government to proceed.

About 170,000 Minnesotans buy insurance on the individual market. Without the waiver, Minnesota officials warned that the state would have to post 2018 premium rates early next month ahead of open enrollment that would be 20 percent higher than they would be with the reinsurance program.

Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this week called the approval process "nightmarish" and expressed alarm that the state hadn't yet heard from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about the waiver. "I can't even get a phone number to call him to raise the issue," he said Wednesday.

On Friday, though, Dayton he'd spoken with Price, who confirmed that the reinsurance waiver had been approved. Officials later released the letter detailing the decision.

Dayton said he'd instructed MNSure, the state-sponsored insurance marketplace, and the state Commerce Department to load the lower rate model into the system ahead of open enrollment. The Commerce Department must finalize rates by early October for the plans that will go on sale Nov. 1.

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