Senate Passes Premium Relief Bill

This week the Senate voted on the Premium Relief Conference Committee Report. After swiftly moving through the conference committee process, the bill as passed will provide immediate relief to Minnesotans who are struggling with increased health insurance premiums. The bill, expected to be signed by the Governor, will reduce 2017 health insurance premiums by 25% for Minnesotans, regardless of their income, who purchase their insurance on the individual market and do not receive federal tax credits.

Minnesotans eligible for the subsidy would see immediate premium relief on their insurance bill from the health plans and the health plans would be reimbursed by the Department of Management and Budget. This plan would reduce the average premium increase facing Minnesotans in the individual market from 55% to 16%, and some families could save as much as $594 per month on their premiums.

Under the bill, the health plans are required to implement the subsidy program no later than April 30, 2017, and the 25% subsidy is retroactive to January 2017. The 2017 subsidy program will take the health plans approximately six to eight weeks to implement, so Minnesotans eligible for the subsidy would begin to see the discounted rate on their April or May premium bills.

The bill appropriates $312 million from the budget reserve account to the general fund for the premium assistance payments and $157,000 is appropriated to the Office of the Legislative Auditor for the purposes of auditing the premium assistance program.

Additionally, the bill includes several health insurance market reforms. One reform measure that is the most troubling to many DFL senators is a provision to allow for-profit HMOs to operate in Minnesota. This drastic change could have significant impacts for rural and smaller hospitals and medical providers. For-profit HMOs exist to make a profit for their shareholders, while looking out for the best interests of their members comes second.