Friday, December 20, 2013

MNsure announces new enrollment and payment deadlines

Minnesotans who want individual or family health care coverage beginning January 1, 2014, now have until December 31, 2013, to select a plan on, according to an agreement announced today by MNsure and Minnesota’s health plans.

Payments for this coverage must be received at MNsure or the health plan on or before January 10, 2014.

These new deadlines do not apply to small business customers.

“We are aware of the concerns many consumers have as we approach January 1, and we are taking critical steps to ensure that Minnesotans have comprehensive, affordable health coverage when they need it,” said MNsure interim Chief Executive Officer Scott Leitz. “We thank the health plans for working with us, and we remind consumers to make their plan selections and payments as soon as possible to guarantee their coverage is in place.”

Minnesotans who wait until the last days of December to purchase coverage will not have their identification cards and enrollment materials at the start of January, but medical care will be covered if they meet the new deadlines. In addition, it is important that consumers understand that if the January premium payment does not arrive by the close of business on January 10, 2014, medical tests and other care received between January 1 and January 10 will not be covered.

To help consumers during this busy time, the application and enrollment functions at are available between 6 AM and midnight every day. The Contact Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. We also encourage consumers who need support to seek out the help of one of their local community assisters. The assister directory is available at

Minnesotans determined eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare through December 31 will have coverage January 1, 2014. Minnesotans already determined eligible for Medical Assistance through MNsure do not need to take any further steps for health insurance coverage to begin January 1, 2014. Minnesotans already determined eligible for MinnesotaCare will get coverage January 1 even if they have not received a premium bill. MinnesotaCare enrollees should pay their premium bill as soon as they receive it.

Consumers with questions about their Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare coverage can call their caseworkers or the Minnesota Department of Human Services Member Help Desk at 651-431-2670 or 1-800-657-3739.

Open enrollment runs through March 31, 2014. Minnesotans who miss the December 31, 2013, deadline may enroll in coverage that begins February 1, March 1 or April 1. In addition to enrolling on the MNsure website, consumers may also enroll through an insurance broker or by directly contacting the insurance company of their choice.

"Regardless of how you choose to enroll, the MNsure website is there to use as a reference to get information about plans and compare prices and benefits,” said Leitz. “Our goal is to make purchasing health insurance as easy as possible for consumers.”

Minnesota sees significant slowdown in health care spending increases

Health care spending in Minnesota increased 2 percent to $38.2 billion from 2010 to 2011, according to a report released today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The report looks at all health care spending, including private health insurance, out-of-pocket spending, state public programs, and Medicare. These latest health care spending data reflect a trend of slowing growth in health care spending since 2007. It also indicates that in national comparisons, Minnesota continues to look competitive with regard to health care spending inflation. Minnesota's growth rate was half the nation's rate of almost 4 percent in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. This report is available online at

Total spending in 2010 was $37.5 billion or a growth rate of 1.7 percent from 2009. Together with the 2 percent growth seen in 2011, these rates mark the lowest year-over-year change in health care spending since MDH began tracking this trend for Minnesota in the mid-1990s.

In addition, Minnesota's per-person health care spending in 2011 of $7,145 was lower than the national per-person cost of $8,175. Plus, health care spending accounted for a smaller share of Minnesota's economy, 13.6 percent, compared to the national number of 16.9 percent.

"This analysis confirms Minnesota's reputation for leadership and innovation in the health care sector. While Minnesota experienced slower spending growth and lower per capita spending than the national average, we need to continue our focus on transforming the way we deliver care and improving access to care as we strive to reach our goals of lower costs and better outcomes," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

Part of the slow growth in health care spending is related to lingering effects of the recession still experienced by many Minnesotans in 2011. Minnesota's uninsured rate remained above 9 percent in 2011. Due to factors including unemployment and lost wealth, some Minnesotans appear to have delayed or used less health care. Higher cost sharing requirements likely exacerbated these choices.

 "There is a vigorous debate at the state and national level over the cause of the slowdown in spending and whether it will be a one-time correction or represent a structural change," said Stefan Gildemeister, MDH's state health economist. "A period of solid recovery which would help remove the considerable effects of the economic slowdown will help to assess more definitively whether factors in Minnesota driving health care have changed fundamentally."

Other possible factors slowing the growth in costs include continued increased cost sharing in the private insurance market, slower development and implementation of medical technologies, and changes in pharmaceutical drug benefit trends. In addition, a number of reforms and private sector initiatives aimed at improving care coordination, promoting value through payment reform and investing in health information technology likely have contributed as well.

The annual report is part of the Minnesota's health reform law enacted in 2008, with the goal of significantly slowing the growth of health care spending. With bipartisan support, the law has resulted in several key efforts including, provider peer grouping and statewide quality reporting, health care homes, and the Statewide Health Improvement Program, an investment in prevention efforts designed to lower health care costs by reducing obesity and tobacco use in Minnesota.

Future spending projections
As part of the 2008 health reform law, the Minnesota Legislature requires MDH to compare projected spending and estimated actual spending to determine the level of savings over time as Minnesota implements its 2008 health reforms. This was the fourth year MDH has compared actual health care spending to projected spending to determine whether underlying trends in health care spending have changed. The comparison shows that projected spending for 2011 exceeded actual spending for 2011 by $1.9 billion. The law defines this difference as savings related to reform. MDH estimates between $99 million and $414 million of the difference between projected and actual spending is attributable to state-administered programs. This exceeds a $50 million threshold established in statute, which triggers a transfer of $50 million from the General Fund to the Health Care Access Fund.

The report shows there has been some disruption in the drivers of health spending growth, but at this time and with existing data MDH cannot determine definitively the weight of the factors that drove this change. Without a structural change in the underlying factors that historically drove spending growth, spending on health care in Minnesota is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 8.2 percent from 2011 to 2021, MDH estimates. These projections depend on an unchanged relationship between economic factors and health care spending. "Minnesota has made progress, but without a continued focus on public health and prevention and reforming Minnesota's health care system, health care spending growth could return to higher levels and consume a larger share of the economy," Ehlinger said. The report projects that without a change in cost drivers, health care spending could more than double in 10 years, growing to $89.1 billion and accounting for almost one-fifth of the state's economy.