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MNsure: abolish it, or tweak it?

Allison O’Toole, CEO of the MNsure health insurance exchange program, was in Glencoe Thursday to encourage people to enroll or re-enroll, and to assure them that recent premium hikes will be offset by federal tax credits.
MNsure always has been a politically charged topic in Minnesota. It was born of the controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which itself was a political hot potato at the federal level.
Minnesota is one of only 13 states which chose to offer its own marketplace for the purchase of health insurance rather  than using the federal platform.
Some argue that Minnesota is simply spending money to duplicate what the feds are doing; others say that Minnesota is taking local control and ensuring that Minnesotans are getting the best possible choices for health insurance.
There is some truth to both positions. O’Toole pointed out that Minnesota has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation, with just 4 percent of its population without insurance.
It also was noted that although premiums in the policies offered through MNsure are spiking, the federal program ensures that tax credits offset the premium increases.
O’Toole said that MNsure is often unfairly blamed for the increases in the premiums. MNsure, she said, is simply a marketplace tool, a place where consumers can compare policies, rates and coverage. She likened it to the use of Kodiak or Travelocity in the vacation industry.
There also is a great deal of debate as to why premiums are increasing. Some say its the greed of the health insurance companies, other say it is flaws in the system.
A specialist in health-care insurance, who accompanied O’Toole to Glencoe, said that the main culprit is that people with serious medical needs have been moved into the same pool as people who are seeking individual coverage. Insurance companies are covering the costs for those with expensive medical needs by spreading the cost over the entire pool.
The specialist, Tim Jopp, said that the system can be fixed with some common sense work.
Neither eliminating MNsure nor throwing more money at it will help, Jopp added. It needs tweaking.
Hopefully, legislators will find common-sense ways to amend the Affordable Care ACT and MNsure to make them work the way they were intended. We’re all tired of the ever-shifting sands that underlie our health care system.
— L.C.