GOP's Johnson says Dayton lying about health rates; incumbent calls opponent 'desperate'

Associated Press

Republican Jeff Johnson seized Thursday on new insurance data to accuse Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton of lying about how much health premiums will increase for coverage next year.

Johnson said the Dayton administration is lowballing the medical premium estimates for political advantage. Dayton shot back that Johnson is ignoring that people are free to shop around for the best deal and said his charge demonstrates a rival who "gets more desperate by the day."

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In early October, Commerce Department officials projected an average premium increase of 4.5 percent for plans sold through the MNsure insurance exchange. But many policyholders are in line for double-digit cost jumps if they want to stick with their existing policies during an open enrollment period starting in mid-November.

"I believe Gov. Dayton needs to apologize to the people of Minnesota for lying to us about MNsure rates because families and employees and small businesses are about to get hammered in ways they can't even imagine right now," Johnson said.

Officials with the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters told MNsure's board of directors on Wednesday that the administration's 4.5 percent figure is inaccurate.

Average premiums will rise for three of the four carriers remaining in MNsure for 2015: 17.2 percent for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, 8.1 percent for HealthPartners and 1.8 percent for Medica. UCare will lower its premiums 9.1 percent.

The administration's 4.5 percent average leaves out PreferredOne, a dominant player in MNsure last year that isn't selling policies through the exchange this year. Details that surfaced Wednesday show its customers could see up to 60-percent premium increases if they want to keep their policies and buy them away from the exchange for 2015.

Dayton said PreferredOne "misjudged the market" last year by offering lower costs than bigger competitors in an attempt to gain market share and couldn't afford to keep its rates so low.