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Health care reform is occupying a great deal of our time in the insurance industry. Clients and prospects are asking what our opinion is as to where we are all heading and what they might expect. Fair questions, and if anyone is answering with a strong affirmative answer, they are likely guessing. All of us who deal in health insurance wish we knew for sure, because then we could plan our futures with better decision making. Fact is, all we can do at this point is put some facts together and guess at the overall impact on each of us.
Please refer to Mary's article in this edition as to what we know for sure are the rules, penalties and likely impact of the role out of Obama Care. Aside from that, know that Minnesota has passed legislation creating its own health exchange that they have named MnSure. This will be an online facility that will provide competitive, or what is intended to be competitive, products for those looking for health care. For those who qualify for assistance, they will be granted a federal subsidy to be applied toward health premium. For those who do not qualify for this subsidy, and are either paying for individual insurance now, or are currently not covered by an employer, this facility will provide quotes. Already overall medical insurance pricing is expected to increase over  prior years, because Minnesota will levy a tax on all health insurance premiums of up to 4%, to pay for this government run exchange.  Our staff will have access to this facility after required licensing, so most of you will not see much of a change in the process. Premiums are likely to also increase because all pre-existing conditions will now be covered. Most folks think that is a tremendous improvement in the process, but know that Minnesota had one of the first successful uninsurable health risk pools in the country and it was paid for by the insurance companies participating in Minnesota health insurance, not tax payers. Many of us believe that the politics of healthcare has caused most of us to take a big step backward in health insurance. Small group insurance, 50 employees and under, will likely see between a 20% to 50% increase in the cost of health insurance over the coming years; possibly a little less for large groups. One important note here is that insurance agents, including ourselves, are paid a per-employee-per-month commission on small group health products, and have been for 20 years. That means that any increase you receive over the coming years due to all of these changes, will not mean more of that money going to your agent.
So in quick summary, if you are an employer with over 100 employees and don't offer health insurance, check with your CPA as to when and how much your penalty will be over the next 4 years. For those individuals without coverage, penalties are on their way also. If you are an employer under 100 employees but more than 50 employees it appears very little will change other than your rates will likely increase. You are not eligible for the Minnesota Exchange. For those employers under 51 employees, you can now add the availability of the health exchange in Minnesota as a plan and premium alternative. As I indicated we will be able to provide those quotes for you. If history repeats itself the exchange will not benefit those who don't qualify for a subsidy. Pricing and coverage are not expected to be better in the exchange than will be available through normal channels. There are already folks in the know projecting they would be surprised if the exchange hits 60% of its targets over the coming year or two. But your health plans will still pay for the exchange's employees and the cost of it operation.
We will make every effort to keep you informed about what this federal and state health reform means to you. As always do not hesitate to contact any of us to ask questions or need clarification on what we know at this point.

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