By Elizabeth Baier
Minnesota Public Radio
---- — Rochester — Residents in Olmsted and Dodge counties will now have multiple health insurance options on MNsure, the state's online health insurance marketplace, state regulators said today.
Rochester had been the only part of Minnesota offering only one insurance option on MNsure.
Insurance companies have stayed out of the Rochester market largely because Mayo sets prices in the region, and they're higher than anywhere else in Minnesota. Mayo officials say their costs are expensive because the clinic treats patients with complex illnesses.
Dannette Coleman, vice president of individual business for Medica, said the company worked quickly with the state departments of health and commerce to offer additional plans in the Rochester area.
"We're just really excited about the outcome," Coleman said. "I think this is really good for the people of southeastern Minnesota, and for the regulators and for us, that we're able to offer the products now in that area."
For a 55-year-old living in Rochester, the new Medica options on MNsure will range from approximately $440 to $670 dollars per month. Previously, the only option for a person that age was a $600 plan by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The prices are for people who don't qualify for federal subsidies.
The addition of seven new health insurance plans will let consumers look for more affordable health care options, while staying with current health providers, Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said. Those providers include Mayo Health Systems but not Rochester's Mayo Clinic.
Medica members who access care through Mayo Health System can be referred to Mayo Clinic without authorization from Medica. In that case, Mayo Clinic would be considered an in-network benefit.
"If they have better access and if they have providers they've been receiving care from over the years, that consistency will be important for their health," Ehlinger said.
He said adding more options to the Rochester market fulfills the Affordable Care Act's promise of more competition making insurance affordable.
"It helped. In this area it identified what was going on in a certain part of the state and we were able to then address it," Ehlinger said of the federal health care law. "So, this is doing exactly what ACA was supposed to do.
MNsure officials say they're trying to place the new Medica plans on the online marketplace as soon as possible.
They say no other new plans will be allowed into the marketplace for 2014, but other insurers may offer additional health plan options in 2015.
More than 1 million Minnesotans are expected to use MNsure to obtain health coverage starting next year when federal law requires most Americans to carry health insurance.