You will see lots of changes in 2014 for the small group market which will effect plan options, networks, and cost. The insurance companies have had to redesign, scrap, or add new plans, to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. As you have probably heard, ACA mandates that plans have more comprehensive coverage with 10 categories of required benefits called "essential health benefits". There are to be limits on cost sharing (copays, deductibles, and coinsurance), and people without previous coverage cannot be declined coverage for pre-existing conditions. There will be new taxes and fees on your coverage. Of course the cost of health care continues to rise, and with the uninsured having a pent-up demand for health care, the overall use of health care is expected to rise. These costs will be shared by everyone.
Small group plans will no longer be medically underwritten, but will go to a "community rating" or "Fair Insurance Premium" under Obamacare. This is good news for the higher rated groups and bad news for lower risk groups, because all small group plans have to meet in the middle. These changes in premium and plans will take effect on your 2014 renewal month, not necessarily January 1st. A common question has been does our plan meet the minimum value? It will with your 2014 renewal. Some of you will keep your current plan with 2013 standards through much of 2014 if you have a 4th quarter renewal. Others will be facing the ACA changes and choices much sooner. Large group employer plans will be dealing with the ACA mandates and changes in 2015, along with potential employer penalties, due to President Obama's delay of employer mandates.
Our Minnesota insurance companies have been hard at work trying to keep things we liked about our plans and still meeting the requirements of the law. For the most part, the same plans and rates are offered in the MNsure Exchange as outside. Blue Cross has 32 new plans, with 3 plans exclusively for the Exchange , primarily for those small businesses that would qualify for a tax credit. HealthPartners is not participating on the Exchange for commercial business in 2014, only outside of the Exchange. Medica will be slimming down their small group plan portfolio to 3 HSA plans, and Preferred One has 16 new plans, offered in and outside our MNsure Exchange. No other insurance company from another state is represented on MNsure; the 3 I just outlined are the only players for small group coverage.
2014 will be new territory for all of us, and we are learning as we go. I feel like a full time student again with all the training we're going through to assist you. Please be patient with us and your insurance company as everyone is scrambling to get up to speed. I am officially certified to assist people on the MNsure Exchange, and I'm also learning the new product portfolios in the commercial and individual marketplaces. We do have your best interest in mind, and will continue keep you informed to make informed decisions. Incidentally, my own premium is going up $150 per month in 2014...