State Views: MacIver analysis finds holes in group’s Obamacare report

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Brett Healy
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Citizen Action of Wisconsin seems to have cherry-picked data and overlooked major factors while laying out its argument that Minnesota has lower health insurance premiums than Wisconsin because of certain policy decisions each state made.

The group released a report Oct. 23 (column, Oct. 30) that claimed Wisconsin has higher health care premiums under Obamacare because the state rejected the Medicaid expansion, did not set up its own exchange and lacks a comprehensive health insurance rate review process.

An analysis by the MacIver Institute has found many holes in Citizen Action’s report, including many instances of inaccurate and incomplete data.

The first problem with Citizen Action’s analysis is its misrepresentation of rates in Minnesota. The report relies on information released by the federal government Sept. 25 that only included health care rates for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, instead of the whole state. By leaving out areas such as Rochester, where rates can reportedly be double what they are in the Twin Cities, the average used by Citizen Action could be much lower than the real state average of Minnesota.

Second, in addition to the data being incomplete, it is also out-of-date. The federal Department of Health and Human Services released the data prior to official rate information being available.

Third, Citizen Action’s assertion that Wisconsin has higher premium costs because of the state’s decision to reject the Medicaid expansion and not develop a state-run exchange is simply not true when you look at other states.

According to the HHS chart, there are states that both expanded Medicaid and set up state-run exchanges that have higher premiums than Wisconsin.

Connecticut has premiums that are 15 percent higher than Wisconsin’s. Vermont and Washington are also higher.

According to an analysis by HCTrends, a health care research organization, there is also no statistical difference in premiums between states that rejected the Medicaid expansion or created state-run exchanges and those that did not.

The median lowest-cost silver premium for state-run exchanges ($319) is 4 percent higher than the median premium for federally run exchanges ($307).

The median premium for states that accepted Medicaid ($319) is 3 percent lower than in states that did not ($328).

Finally, Citizen Action claims that Minnesota has “used a robust rate review process” to lower health insurance rates in the state and claims Wisconsin does not have the same oversight.

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), Wisconsin can and does send out rates for actuarial review to make sure the health insurance company’s assumptions are correct. The OCI also said the federal government approves of Wisconsin’s rate review process. If it was not effective, the feds would take it over.

While it tried to portray its report as factual and comprehensive, Citizen Action was clearly just looking for a provocative headline to distract Wisconsinites from the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Brett Healy is president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, 44 E. Mifflin Street, Suite 201, Madison, WI 53703. Contact him by email at info@maciverinstitute.com.

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