MNsure lowers 2016 projections

Published 10:23 am Friday, March 13, 2015

MNsure has lowered its enrollment projections again for the next year, and trimmed its budget to cover the lower revenue.

The state-run health insurance exchange now predicts 95,000 private enrollees next year. That’s down from a projection of 107,000 made in November and an original guess of 297,000 in January 2013.

As of this week, MNsure had 61,109 people enrolled in private plans, so it’s still projected to attract significantly more enrollees over the next 12 months — just fewer than initially thought.

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The lower-than-expected enrollment will cost MNsure about $1.2 million next year, compared with the original budget plan with 107,000 enrollees. One of MNsure’s primary sources of revenue is the share it withholds from health insurance premiums purchased through MNsure — 3.5 percent this year.

Over the next three years, MNsure’s budget will fall $3.1 million below January projections. In response,MNsure’s board on Thursday cut expenses.

Board member Thomas Forsythe said some of the spending reductions reflect cuts, while others reflectMNsure realizing it was budgeting more money than necessary for some responses.

“That is not the cut it appears to be,” Forsythe said of a $700,000 reduction in funding for health care “navigators.” “In fact, we’ve been overbudgeting on that line and underspending.”

The three-year budget approved by MNsure’s board Thursday has a $645,000 surplus, after the revenue and spending cuts.

Most of the surplus is projected to come in 2017, with 2015 and 2016 producing relatively tiny surpluses.

If MNsure’s revenue comes in at the new lower levels, but it kept its expenses at levels proposed in January, it would produce a $1.7 million deficit.

Board members said they considered a number of budget projections and picked conservative estimates.

“We chose one of the scenarios that was less optimistic because it seemed more prudent,” board member Thomas Forsythe said.

For example, the budget assumes premiums will go up by only 2 percent per year, far below recent insurance industry trends. If insurers raise premiums by more than that, MNsure’s share also goes up, adding more revenue to its bottom line.

MNsure board chair Brian Beutner said the lowered enrollment projections shouldn’t be seen as a failure — but rather as a responsible, reality-based move.

“Putting forth a balanced budget that reflects the knowledge we have to date on where enrollment is is the prudent thing to do,” Beutner said. “It’s neither positive nor negative, it’s the right thing to do.”

The only dispute about the budget before MNsure’s board approved it unanimously Thursday was discussion about updates. Board member Lucinda Jesson, the state’s Human Services commissioner, said she’d feel better about the budget if the board got quarterly updates on the budget. Forsythe pointed out that the board’s bylaws already require it to provide monthly updates — though that’s something that hasn’t always happened.

“We do plan to get to that,” Forsythe said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said it has finally finished sending out tax forms toMNsure customers. Those forms were supposed to be out by Feb. 1, but the final batch — barring “literally… maybe four or five additional ones that are more complicated” — went out this week.

Of the 33,000 tax forms MNsure sent out, Leitz said about 2,500 hadn’t been mailed by March 1.

Those forms are necessary for people who received tax subsidies for their MNsure health insurance to file their federal incomes taxes.