- Associated Press - Monday, September 18, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota is running out of time to receive the federal government’s approval of its plan to lower health insurance premiums next year.

The $542 million reinsurance proposal would keep premiums purchased through the state exchange about 20 percentage points lower next year than they’d otherwise be, the Pioneer Press reported .

An estimated 4 percent of Minnesota residents get their insurance through the MNsure exchange and may pay thousands more for coverage if the government doesn’t approve the plan.

“Right now, about 160,000 Minnesotans will be paying more than they should in 2018 unless that waiver approval gets done very soon,” said Jim Schowalter, president of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.

Allison O’Toole, the CEO of the state-run MNsure exchange, said failing to get approval would “have a devastating impact on our overall market, and more importantly Minnesotans.”

The state’s entire congressional delegation has supported the request, which was filed in June.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are considering the request.

Federal law gives the agency until after Christmas to make a decision, but Minnesota is required to announce 2018 individual market rates by Oct. 2. Open enrollment in Minnesota starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 14.

Minnesota residents will still face high rates if the reinsurance plan is approved. The state passed an emergency premium relief plan last year to lessen the rates. The plan gave about 95,000 residents 25 percent premium discounts per month, but it’ll expire at the end of the year.

If the reinsurance plan isn’t approved, the state could use the money that would’ve been used for reinsurance to reauthorize the premium relief plan. Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said the option is a good back-up plan that doesn’t require federal approval.

Residents who earn less than $48,240 for an individual or $98,400 for a family of four will still be eligible for a federal government subsidy.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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