Area legislators believe they have found one possibility for cutting premiums and adding coverage to health insurance for those in rural Minnesota.They’ve introduced a bill to request a federal waiver so that MinnesotaCare, the state-run health insurance plan for low-income individuals and families, can be sold on the state exchange to those above the current income limit. Any new enrollees would pay a premium based on a statewide calculation that considers MinnesotaCare as other privately offered health insurance plans are.“In the metro area, there are a lot of insurance carriers who provide multiple products,” said Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato. “In the rural area, where we are more remote and there are fewer customers to be pursued, there are fewer providers of those products.”
This is an interesting development (h/t to Manatt’s Liz Osius) given that many state exchanges struggle to offer much in the way of choice among qualified health plans (QHPs) in their rural rating regions. This bill would allow a special state insurance plan authorized under Section 1331 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as a Basic Health Insurance Plan (BHP) for individuals under age 65 with household incomes between 133 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and ineligible for Medicaid (which tops out at 138 percent of FPL in states that opt to expand Medicaid eligibility) to be offered on Minnesota’s state health benefit exchange. MinnesotaCare is the state’s BHP. The preamble to federal rules issued earlier this year governing federal funding for BHPs recognizes their utility as adjuncts to exchange QHPs and Medicaid plans:
BHP provides another option for states in providing affordable health benefits to individuals with incomes in the ranges previously described. States may find BHP a useful option for several reasons, including the ability to potentially coordinate standard health plans in BHP with their Medicaid managed care plans, or to potentially reduce the costs to individuals by lowering premiums or cost-sharing requirements.
Despite this language suggesting flexibility, it remains to be seen whether the federal government would grant a state innovation waiver under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act allowing MinnesotaCare to be offered on the exchange if the legislation is enacted. Section 1332 provides program flexibility on exchange requirements but does not extend to BHPs under Section 1331.
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