Exchange has warts, but Minnesota made right choice

Many Republicans warned of rising health care costs that would come after the implementation of Minnesota’s Health Insurance Exchange – a new twist to the health care field brought on by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul – and it looks like they might be right.

States were given a choice to either accept Obama’s health care plan – unflatteringly dubbed “Obamacare” – or go on their own and come up with a system unique to their state. That’s the path Minnesota chose and, indeed, the state will set up an online marketplace where the uninsured can shop for insurance (plan coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014). It will be administered and monitored by a seven-member advisory board that will include the state’s human services commissioner; the board will have authority to select policies that can be sold through the exchange (another aspect of the plan Republicans frowned upon).

It became a divisive issue at the Capitol, but cleared both the Democratic-led House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton’s last week.

But while supporters argue that Minnesotans will save $1 billion by 2016, the exchange, called MNSURE, will be costly, and some say it’s not worth the money.

But what doesn’t cost money?

At least Minnesota chose to go its own way and will have some form of local control when it comes to insuring its residents. And had Minnesota chose not to create its own path to widespread health care and shaded itself under the Obamacare tree, residents more than likely would be looking at increased premiums anyway. A new study has found that insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims under the new federal mandate. Since the law prohibits insurance companies from turning aside people with pre-existing conditions, sicker people will be able to sign on, which, the study says, will drive up costs in the end.

When looking at the financial numbers, there was no avoiding a cost increase, no matter which direction states went.

Is Minnesota’s plan perfect? No. But what is? By going solo, Minnesota made the most of what could be looked at as a lose-lose situation. Obama and the Democrats are getting what they wanted – health insurance for all – and Minnesotans who are currently uninsured can at least take solace in knowing we’re moving forward on our own terms.