Update: Minnesota OKs health insurance premium relief, and here's what you need to know

ST. PAUL--Gov. Mark Dayton signed health insurance premium relief into law Thursday night, mere hours after it passed the House of Representatives 108-19 and the Senate 47-19.


ST. PAUL-Gov. Mark Dayton signed health insurance premium relief into law Thursday night, mere hours after it passed the House of Representatives 108-19 and the Senate 47-19.

Now as many as 120,000 Minnesotans could start seeing big drops on their health insurance premiums: around $310 million in taxpayer money will be spent throughout 2017 to give 25 percent discounts.

The new law comes just a few days before the open enrollment period for 2017 health insurance ends on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

State officials and lawmakers urged Minnesotans who had been holding back from buying insurance due to the high premium cost to now reconsider.

"The first thing we'll be doing is a campaign to let people know about their rebate," said Myron Frans, the state's management and budget commissioner. "We want everyone to sign up by Jan. 31 and get individual insurance if they qualify."


Some details of how the relief will work are still being finalized. Here is what we know now:


The relief is available only to people who buy insurance on the individual market - not people who get insurance from their employer or through a government program such as Medical Assistance or Medicare.

Among people on the individual market, the 25 percent state-funded discount applies only to people who don't get federal tax subsidies. Those federal subsidies are available to people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty limit - $47,520 for an individual, or $97,200 for a family of four.

There is no maximum income limit.

In order to get discounted individual market insurance, Minnesotans must have active individual market insurance.

Though federal subsidies are only available on plans purchased through the state-run MNsure exchange, the state subsidies are available to plans bought on MNsure or directly from insurers.



The discounts will be automatically applied to customers' insurance invoices.

"If you qualify for the discount it will show up on your premium invoice in a few months," said Eileen Smith with the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. "You don't have to do anything to get the discount."

People should keep paying their premiums in full - and not take 25 percent off themselves, the Council of Health Plans said.

It will take eight to 12 weeks for insurers to implement the discounts in their billing system. Discounts are likely to start appearing in bills sent out in April for May insurance, though some insurers could apply the discounts earlier.

But even though it will take months to start getting the discounts, they are retroactive to the beginning of the year. Smith said customers will likely see the retroactive discounts applied to future bills.

For example, if someone paid three months' bills without the 25 percent discount, they could get their fourth month's bill completely free due to the combination of four 25 percent discounts.

The state will reimburse insurance companies after the fact for the discounts.



Another provision in the law helps people with serious medical conditions who just lost their old medical network.

Under the bill, people with acute conditions, life-threatening diseases, pregnancy beyond the first trimester, major disabilities or acute chronic conditions can keep their networks for up 120 days into 2017.

People with a life expectancy of fewer than 180 days can keep their current doctors for the rest of their life.

These benefits only apply to people whose insurer was no longer available for purchase. This is primarily the 103,000 Minnesotans who had Blue Cross Blue Shield plans before that company left the individual market, and a smaller number of former HealthPartners customers affected when HealthPartners left several counties.

People who may be eligible for this benefit should talk to their insurer or their doctor to learn more, the Council of Health Plans said.

The law appropriates $15 million to reimburse health plans for added costs they incur providing this benefit.

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