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MNsure expands insurance plans in Rochester

Rochester residents shopping for health insurance on the state's exchange soon will have eight plans to choose from instead of just one.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnnesota Department of Health and MNsure announced Wednesday morning that Medica soon will begin offering seven health insurance plans on the state exchange. They will include two bronze plans, two silver plans and two gold plans. It also will result in six additional child insurance plans. Residents in Olmsted and Dodge counties also will be able to take advantage of these choices.

Since the MNsure website went live on Oct. 1, only a single Blue Cross and Blue Shield Minnesota plan with a $3,000 deductible, had been available for Rochester residents, angering health-care consumers.

"Minnesotans, regardless of where they live — Rochester, Duluth, Eveleth or the Twin Cities, and everyone across the state — deserve choice when purchasing health insurance," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement.

Rochester lawmakers had been pushing hard to get another insurance company to agree to offer plans on MNsure for residents who live in the Rochester zip codes.


Rochester DFL Rep. Kim Norton said she and other DFL lawmakers set to work as soon as they became aware that only one insurance plan was available to Rochester residents. It included meetings with officials from Gov. Mark Dayton's office and the Minnesota departments of health and human services.

"Almost from that very day (the MNsure rates were released), we've been working on this. It's taken a few weeks, but the response has been wonderful, and the timeline is much faster than I thought we would be able to achieve," Norton said.

MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmov said the state is working on a technical solution to get the insurance options up on the exchange website as soon as possible.

"MNsure is pleased that the Departments of Health and Commerce and Medical could agree upon a regulatory path to make changes to improve the choices available to consumers on MNsure. While these limited changes were permitted this year, mid-year changes to plans on MNsure generally would not be permitted in the future," Todd-Malmov said in a statement.

Limited choice

A majority of the state has three to five companies offering plans. Consumers in the Twin Cities have 66 plans to choose from on the MNsure health-care exchange, St. Cloud has 32 and Bemidji has 30 plans. In addition to the lack of choice in Rochester, the policy is also more expensive than any other comparable policy in the state.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, sent a letter to Rothman last week asking him to allow Rochester residents the same access to insurance plans as in other parts of the state.

"That's all we asked for. Keeping the pressure on. It's totally unacceptable to have that one plan in Rochester," she said.


In a response to her concerns, Rothman sent Nelson a letter that said his department cannot force insurance companies to offer plans. But he wrote that the state "has been working on a solution with a second health insurer that currently offers products on MNsure elsewhere in Dodge and Olmsted counties."

Additional provider?

Medica provides coverage to individuals in Olmsted but not to those who live in the Rochester zip code. The health company previously said regulations prevented them from offering a policy in Rochester because Mayo Clinic Rochester isn't in its network, but it was working to overcome those issues and might offer a policy in the future.

A Medica spokesman reached Tuesday afternoon said he could not comment at this time.

House Health and Human Services Policy Committee Chairwoman Tina Liebling said she has been working hard on this issue for weeks.

"It certainly was never anybody's intention or expectation that there would only be one plan available. That was really surprising to everybody," said the Rochester DFLer.

She said there seems to be some misunderstanding that the state was preventing insurance companies from offering plans in Rochester. Instead, she said it is up to the insurance companies to decide what to do.

"It's a matter of working with the companies to get them to agree to do it and to make it possible for them to do it," Liebling said.

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