Minnesota individual health plan rates stabilize for 2018

Updated 2:15 p.m. | Posted 1:20 p.m.

After two years of steep increases, premiums for Minnesotans who buy health coverage outside of their employers will either rise modestly or drop.

Average rate changes for the major insurers in the individual market range from a 13 percent cut to a less than 3 percent increase for next year, the Minnesota Commerce Department said Monday as it unveiled rates for health insurance plans Minnesotans buy through insurance agents, directly from insurance companies or through MNsure, the state-sponsored health insurance exchange.

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The 2018 enrollment window opens Nov. 1.

The steadier rates come months after state lawmakers passed a $542 million financial safety net known as reinsurance to protect insurers hit by larger-than-expected medical claims.

"While recent state actions helped to stabilize the individual market, too many Minnesotans are still paying too much for the coverage they need," Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement. "The individual market survived a near-fatal crisis last year, but its recovery is still very tentative."

The rates announced Monday affect less than 4 percent of Minnesotans, about 166,000 people, who currently get their coverage from individual policies.

The year-over-year rate changes announced do not take into account a temporary, 25-percent premium subsidy passed by the Legislature this year for Minnesotans who don't qualify for federal tax credits through MNsure.

That program has assisted 112,107 Minnesotans this year, but that program goes away next year. So recipients of the discounts will see substantial increases in their actual premium payments next year.

Although the rates affect only a fraction of Minnesotans, the rate spikes those consumers endured this year — increases of 50 percent or more in some cases — provoked widespread anger and led Gov. Mark Dayton to say the federal Affordable Care Act was "no longer affordable."

Here are the average premium changes for 2018 for the four carriers with the bulk of the non-group market in Minnesota:

• Blue Plus, 2.8 percent increase

• Group Health, 7.5 percent decrease

• Medica, .4 percent decrease

• UCare, 13.2 percent decrease

PreferredOne, which has only a tiny portion of the non-group market, will offer rates 38 percent below last year's.

Individuals qualify if their income does not exceed $48,240; the ceiling is $98,400 for a family of four.