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Health panel chair hopes bill puts brakes on high health insurance deductibles, copayments

Many Minnesotans with health insurance still avoid doctor’s visits.


High deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, also called cost-sharing.

Or, if you ask Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), “cost barriers.”

“This is how insurance shifts costs to the consumer and often those costs are falling on the sickest consumers,” she said.

Liebling sponsors HF1030 which could eliminate cost-sharing under medical assistance, MinnesotaCare and State Employees Group Insurance Program plans by Jan. 1, 2024.

Private market individual and small group insurance plans may not initially face the same requirements, but upon federal approval to the state’s innovation waiver, they too would eliminate cost-sharing.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee laid the bill over Tuesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Liebling said Minnesota has some of the highest out-of-pocket costs in the country. “Having a policy does you no good if you can’t get health care when you need it.”

When we get access to preventative care, the overall cost goes down because people are not putting off critical care, said Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL-Maple Grove). She blames high deductibles for hurting both people and small businesses.

But opponents worry the bill would increase premium costs.

“A single person could expect to pay $1,000 or more a month in certain parts of the state, and a family of four could be paying over $3,000 a month in premiums,” said Dan Endreson, senior director of policy and government affairs at the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.

He believes unaffordable insurance rates for individual and small group insurance plans will increase the number of uninsured Minnesotans and would prefer to see the bill address the cost of care.

The elimination of cost-sharing for medical assistance is in Gov. Tim Walz’s budget recommendations.

Many, but not all, of these services have copays ranging from $1 to $3.50 depending on the service or prescription drug, said Ann Bobst, director of legislative and external affairs at the Department of Human Services.

“The elimination of copays in medical assistance will help support low-income families for whom these copays may be a financial burden,” she said.

For Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan) and her son, these costs were a significant barrier.

“People talk about $1 to $3 to $5 copays being small,” she said. “I’ve been the person for whom that isn’t the case.”

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