By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Some good news for Minnesotans who buy their own health care insurance — premium rates for next year should be mostly unchanged. In fact, some consumers could see their premiums cut.

That’s after a major spike in health care rates this year that sent politicians and consumers scrambling to find relief. Next year’s premiums will vary based on the plan, geographic location and age.

But the rates from six companies offering plans will range from a 15 percent decrease to an 11 percent increase compared to 2017. That’s a big difference from last year’s shocking rate hikes of up to 67 percent.

“We still have a long ways to go,” said Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, (R) Crown, who was among Republicans claiming credit for the monthly premium drop.

Republicans in the Minnesota House and Senate created a state-paid $552 million reinsurance program to protect insurance companies from excessive loss.

“MNsure and Obamacare have been disastrous for Minnesota families,” Daudt said. “And while this simply puts a bandaid on the hurt, it does not completely reverse it. And there is still a lot of work left to do.”

The 2018 premiums affect about 170,000 Minnesotans who are self-employed and who buy their own insurance through MNsure.

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton called it “tremendous news” but said the state cannot sustain the huge cost.

“Reinsurance is going to cost over half a billion dollars over the next two years,” Dayton said. “The ability of the state to continue to produce that subsidy for insurance companies without any federal relief– we’re really going to be hard pressed.”

Republican Senator Michele Benson, the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee, calls it “a first step” to stabilize health care costs.

“We’re simply using the same tools that were in place prior to the ACA to put our markets in a positon where our insurance providers can get their legs under them and Minnesotans can get some relief,” Benson said.

Minnesota’s individual insurance market was near collapse just a year ago after huge unexpected losses.

The temporary infusion of state money stopped the slide, but that money expires in 2019, and some Democrats said health care premiums could soar again.

“Republicans talked a good game, but have failed to deliver for Minnesotans,” said Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL) Kerrick, who is the highest ranking Democrat on Health and Human Services Finance Committee. “Minnesotan Republicans, like our President, have discovered that health care is complicated. Their budget-busting health care bill, is yet another short-term solution to a long-term problem. Simply propping up the individual insurance market with one-time money does not provide the reforms necessary for long term market stability.”

The premium rates released today are only the first step in setting monthly premiums for 2018.

The Minnesota Commerce Department will announce the final premium costs in October.

Pat Kessler