Posted: 11/20/14 12:00, Edited: 11/20/14 12:05
by Dave Mindeman
If Sen. David Hann (Senate Minority Leader) would concentrate as much on Minnesota transportation issues as he does on MNSure, we might have some of those problems resolved. But in Senator Hann's world, MNSure is THE paramount issue.
In a Star Tribune Op-Ed, he uses the Jonathan Gruber "gaffe" as a means to rehash all the old arguments and take us backwards once more.
Hann laments the lack of transparency (which Gruber proves I guess) as the deception for getting the ACA passed. Of course, Hann probably doesn't remember the passage of the Medicare Part D act under President George W. Bush and the "surprises" involved with the infamous donut hole and the prohibition of negotiation with drug companies. I guess transparency issues are only a problem when Democratic bills are involved.
Senator Hann uses a Gruber analysis to knock MNSure as well. Yes, Minnesota asked for a report and they used some of those assumptions to move the MNSure bill forward. But that doesn't necessarily mean all of the information was wrong and the source was deceiving the state.
Hann picks out some of the assumptions that MNSure used and then slants the analysis as if it was rigged from the beginning. But let's look at his criticism:
And let's remember that all of the information is predicated on a horrible software system roll out that no one could have predicted.....
1. The exchange would serve 1.3 million people by 2016.
In the first year (2014), MNSure sign-ups hit 371,000. With a smoother, more usable exchange site and a continuation of interest similar to 2014, that goal is within reach for 2016.
2. Over 600,000 people would be purchasing individual plans (as opposed to taxpayer-subsidized plans).
Obviously that did not happen...in the first year only about 55,000 signed up for individual plans. However, a large number of people signed up outside of the exchange....away from the horrible website which wasn't very usable....and got some of the same insurance plans through other venues. Remember, if you weren't eligible for the tax subsidy, it didn't really matter where you bought the insurance.
3. Overall premium costs for individual plans would fall by 34 percent.
Premium costs did go down in the exchange. I am not sure if the 34% figure was realistic, but Minnesota had some of the lowest premiums in the nation. But using Hann's source (Kaiser Family Foundation)... the recent data indicate this:
An early look at the cost of health insurance in 16 major cities finds that average premiums for the benchmark silver plan - the one upon which federal financial help under the Affordable Care Act to consumers is based - will decrease slightly in 2015.
Kaiser also points out that if you sign up for the same plan as you had last year, you could see an increase. Kaiser encourages..."Consumers should go into the open enrollment period prepared to shop for the best deal all over again." Sounds like a free market?
4. Household budgets would improve by $500 to $700.
Again, I'm not sure of Hann's context but many, many Minnesota budgets improved by $500 to $700. I know mine improved by more than that. I doubt anyone guaranteed that every budget would meet that number, but on an average basis, that is probably a fair figure.
5. The number of uninsured would decrease by 60 percent by 2016.
Well, let's quote a June, 2014 MNSure statement...."Between September 30, 2013, and May 1, 2014, the number of uninsured Minnesotans fell by 180,500, a reduction of 40.6 percent. The number of uninsured in Minnesota fell from 445,000 (8.2 percent of the population) to about 264,500 (4.9 percent of the population)." It would seem that we are on track for that target.
6. There would be a large rise in non-employer insurance coverage, and little change in employer-provided coverage.
The purpose of the ACA was to allow competitive rates for people who did not have employer based health coverage. Again, the website issues made that difficult in the first year, but early indications for the current period seem to say that those software glitches are over and individual sign-ups can be obtained much more efficiently. Employer based plans continue as usual. The ACA didn't affect those plans except for one important point. Those policies have to meet a better standard of coverage....and they do.
I know it is hard to resist discrediting everything Gruber says because of some off the cuff remarks made over a year ago. Democrats do that sort of thing as well. Its the political thing to do.
But Gruber is one advisor.....who worked for Republican Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, developing the RomneyCare health plan. And yes, he advised a lot of different entities. But he was only that - an advisor. His opinions and projections had flaws. The law has flaws. But taking everything into account, the law is succeeding.
If Senator Hann has the true better interest of Minnesota in mind, he would work to improve MNSure....a health care system that has been a success in its main purpose....to get health care to those who couldn't get it before.
Play the political game if you must, but in the end, let's all work to make MNSure better and keep Minnesota a model for the nation in health care.