Minnesota’s Health Commissioner is backing a DFL proposal to offer the state’s residents the option to purchase MinnesotaCare coverage rather than health insurance on the individual market.

MinnesotaCare is a state-subsidized insurance program, created in 1992, and intended to help people who earn too much for programs like Medicaid but struggle to afford private coverage.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm said allowing Minnesotans to purchase the coverage will be helpful to a wide range of people. “We’ve heard, really for the last couple of years from people all over the state in all kinds of employment situations – self employed, farmers, entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, people in between jobs; a whole lot of people are increasingly having difficulty purchasing coverage on the employer market.”

They estimate that about 100,000 people would take advantage of the option, which would cost roughly $469 per person per month, on average – about 12 percent less than the average premium for commercial health plans in 2017.

Malcolm said that could be especially helpful to farmers, and, in turn, to the state as a whole because, “The farm economy, we know, is so critical to our state and under a great deal of pressure, and for farmers who are spending tens of thousands of dollars to try to by insurance which then has very, very high deductibles is just putting added pressure on a very, very critical part of our economy.”

And from a public health perspective, Malcolm said, “It does very well cover preventive care and basic health care services without big deductibles; and also for health care providers – particularly smaller practices, practices in rural Minnesota, whether that’s hospitals or doctors – having their patients have access to comprehensive, affordable coverage is really very helpful for the providers as well.”

After a one-time startup cost of $12 million, Malcolm said the MinnesotaCare Buy-In would be funded entirely by the premiums of those who buy the coverage and would require no additional ongoing costs for Minnesota taxpayers.