Throughout the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota’snonprofit health plans continued to put the health and financial stability of their enrollees first. COVID-19 related costs for the fully insured and government program markets exceeded $649 million in 2021, including $237 million in testing and vaccination costs, and $66 million in voluntary cost-sharing waivers, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans announced today.
A return to more normal levels of patient care last year, which had been deferred amid the pandemic, also caused medical expenses in these markets to rise 15.77% over 2020 to $16.3 billion. Health plans reported a collective operating margin of 1.35% in 2021.
As mission-based, nonprofit organizations, health plans use this operating margin for the benefit of their enrollees, especially as the national health emergency continues.
“It was another challenging year for Minnesotans due to COVID-19, but health plans continued to step up to meet their needs. This included free COVID testing and vaccinations, as well as health plans continuing voluntary cost-sharing waivers for inpatient treatment,” said Lucas Nesse, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. “Health plans are continuously adapting to support the health and safety of Minnesotans by providing them broad access to high-quality, equitable care.”
Almost $2 billion spent on COVID-related expenses since start of pandemic
Along with the 2.6 million Minnesotans enrolled in fully insured and government program coverage, Council members also support large, self-insured employers that fund insurance for 1.8 million employees. With all markets combined, more than $1.2 billion was spent in 2021 on COVID-19 related costs, including $490 million in testing and vaccination costs and $83 million in voluntary cost-sharing waivers for inpatient treatment. Including all markets, total costs related to COVID-19 have now exceeded $1.95 billion since the start of the pandemic* through 2021.
Nonprofit health plans also continued their strong tradition of community giving and outreach by launching several initiatives to bolster the number of Minnesotans receiving the COVID vaccine. This included COVID vaccination clinics in underserved communities to ensure that vulnerable populations had equitable access to vaccines.
Pandemic drives shift to government programs, individual market
Total plan enrollment for the fully insured and government program markets increased 1.6% to 2.6 million. Enrollment in government programs increased significantly for the second year in a row, rising 10.87% to 1.1 million, while commercial enrollment decreased 9.26% to 834,384. Minnesota’s reinsurance program has brought much-needed stability to the individual market with enrollment increasing 0.7% over the prior year. A recent analysis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded that 88,958 Minnesotans had coverage in 2020 that otherwise would not have had coverage absent the reinsurance program. Health plans reported an operating loss of 8.27% in the 2021 individual market, after reporting a 0.66% operating loss in 2020.
“Minnesota’s reinsurance program is a proven stability and affordability tool that warrants more permanent consideration,” Nesse said.
Established in 1985, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans is an association of licensed nonprofit health plans that includes: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica, Sanford Health Plan and UCare.
* COVID expenditures for 2020, which only included the fully insured market when reported, were incorrect due to an accounting error and should have been $293 million.
SOURCE Minnesota Council of Health Plans