Central Minnesota health-coverage premiums through MNsure, the state’s new health-insurance marketplace, are the nation’s third-lowest, a new report says.
The Kaiser Health News report contains a rare dose of good news for MNsure, the state’s much-criticized insurance marketplace established under the federal health care act.
The Kaiser report defines Central Minnesota as Stearns, Benton and Wright counties. It ranks the region third-cheapest in the U.S. for premiums among marketplaces in other states and the federal marketplace, which covers states that didn’t build their own marketplace under the health care act.
One of the regions ranked ahead of Central Minnesota was the Twin Cities area, which placed first for cheapest premiums.
Kaiser Health News, a leading, nonpartisan source for health news, says it ranked premium costs by comparing the lowest cost in each region for a so-called “silver” plan, the mid-range coverage level most consumers are choosing.
State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, who chairs a House panel on health and human services finance, said in a news release that the report “proves that Minnesota is making the right decisions when it comes to providing access to quality health care.”
“Passing legislation creating MNsure was just one of (the) actions we took to keep Minnesota a national leader in health care,” Huntley said.
Minnesota and other low-cost regions, such as Pittsburgh and Tucson, Ariz., had similarities, according to Kaiser Health News. They tended to have robust competition between hospitals and doctors, allowing insurers to offer lower rates. And more doctors work on salary in those regions instead of being paid by procedure, weakening the financial incentive to perform more procedures.
The report comes at a time when MNsure’s woes have blanketed the news for months. The marketplace went live in October and struggled then and since with frequent website glitches and extremely long waits at the MNsure call center.
MNsure officials say there has been progress in recent weeks. The rate of users who encountered error messages at the website has declined since November, MNsure’s acting CEO, Scott Leitz, said earlier this month. Leitz also said wait times at the call center have shrunk to 15 minutes or less in recent days, from a high of as long as two hours in late December.
Keep up with Central Minnesota politics in The Political Quarry, www.sctimes.com/politicalquarry. Follow Mark Sommerhauser on Twitter @msommerhauser.