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The largest health insurers selling coverage for individuals in Minnesota are increasing average rates only modestly next year and, in one case, will pass along a small reduction.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced the premium changes on Friday for the market, which includes coverage sold on the MNsure health exchange.

Rates from three carriers will increase on average by less than 3% while a fourth insurer will cut its average rate by 2.3%.

About 169,000 people, or 3% of state residents, shop in the individual market — typically people younger than 65 who are self-employed or don't get health benefits from their employer.

"The rate changes are modest and there is a lot of savings to be had by buying through MNsure," Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold said in an interview.

Beyond the steady rates, more than 70,000 residents next year likely will be eligible for an average of $6,700 in premium savings in federal tax credits, state officials say. The subsidies are available to those who buy via MNsure, the government-run platform for buying coverage that Minnesota launched in 2013 as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The ACA funds tax credits that are available to those who buy through a health exchange, and those subsidies were enhanced earlier this year by the federal Inflation Reduction Act. MNsure projects those who currently receive tax credits and are keeping their current coverage will pay about 3.5% less out of pocket on premiums in 2023.

In June, two of the largest carriers in the individual market proposed increases of about 6%. The final numbers released Friday, including lower increases for those two carriers, are the product of a rate review process where state regulators evaluate the necessity of proposed changes.

"Minnesotans are seeing modest increases next year as utilization returns to pre-pandemic levels and many are seeking overdue care for their ailments," said Lucas Nesse, chief executive of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, a trade group for the state's nonprofit insurers.

Nesse noted that premiums will be about 20% lower than they otherwise would be thanks to the state's reinsurance program, which was one of several measures Minnesota adopted about five years ago to stabilize the individual market.

For 2023, the Commerce Department approved the following rate increases: UCare 0.8%; Medica 2.6%; HealthPartners 2.1%; Quartz, 22.2%, and PreferredOne 18%. The HMO at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will see a 2.3% decrease. Premium rates for individuals will vary from the overall averages depending on where people live, their age and other factors.

The modest premium changes at four carriers apply to about 164,000 people who buy individual market coverage, the Commerce Department says. Another 5,000 people in the market buy health plans that are imposing double-digit increases.

Arnold said consumers in the Rochester area facing a large increase might see it flip to a decrease in out-of-pocket premium costs if they obtain tax credits via MNsure.

"That's why I keep saying people should shop," she said.

MNsure's open enrollment period starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 15.

Rate increases announced Friday are smaller than a year ago, when regulators approved jumps of 7% to 11% on individual coverage for 2022. They're also a far cry from six years ago, when the individual market in Minnesota nearly collapsed and limped along only with extreme rate hikes and enrollment limits.

Today, the market today is stable, Arnold said, and premiums are growing at a slower rate than the long-term trend with medical costs.

The individual market is for Minnesotans who do not have access to employer-based coverage and aren't eligible for coverage through public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. Individual health plans are available through MNsure, an insurance broker or agent, or directly from the insurer.