- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota’s four largest small-business health insurers are proposing average premium increases next year.

Increases range from 8 to 17 percent, the Star Tribune reported . Some insurers say the increases are needed because enrollees are consuming more care while medical costs are rising.

The proposed increases could affect about 160,000 people through HealthPartners, Medica, PreferredOne or Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The increases are also rekindling fears that some small businesses might drop group coverage.

Employers with two to 50 workers are in the small-group market in Minnesota. According to federal data, that includes more than 275,000 enrollees this year.

The increases are cause for concern because they’re higher than health insurance inflation, said Mike Hickey, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“They’re serving up pretty large increases - way beyond nominal.” Hickey said.

The increases may cause employers to look for alternative options or drop coverage altogether, said Bentley Graves, Director of Health Care and Transportation Policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Options may include limiting a health plan’s network of doctors and hospital or higher premium splits and deductibles.

However, businesses competing to attract workers likely won’t stop their health plans, said Greg Dattilo, a benefits consultant and owner of Dattilo Consulting.

“Employers are not going to drop their health insurance because they will lose their employees, especially with the millennials,” he said. “If you don’t offer medical insurance, you’re not a player.”

The Minnesota Commerce Department is expected to release final rates in October.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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