Low-income insurance shuffle starts to take shape

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2011 - 9:15 PM

Families will need to switch insurers under a new competitive bid process.

The state is sending letters to some Twin Cities area low-income families who are covered by Medica and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota saying they'll need to pick a new health plan at the end of the year.

The change is a result of a new bidding process called for by Gov. Mark Dayton, under which insurers compete to provide coverage around the state. The first bids were for counties in the metro area.

Metropolitan Health Plan, Hennepin County's insurance program for the needy, learned earlier this month that it had lost out on its bid across the seven-county area. Officials at UCare and HealthPartners said they'll continue operating in all seven counties.

Pam Lux, a spokeswoman with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, said the insurer is still learning how the process will sort out. "We've been talking about how do we provide customer service support to that letter, because we don't have details either," said Lux, who said the company got a copy of the Department of Human Services letter Wednesday.

Blue Cross provides coverage to every county in the metro area except Hennepin, and to most of the state. Lux declined to say what counties Blue Cross bid on, or where it lost out.

A spokesman at Medica declined to comment.

The bidding process is part of Dayton's attempt to clamp down on spiraling medical costs. The state spends about $3 billion each year on insurance.

The process in the seven-country metro area is the first wave of one that will roll out across the state. It covers insurance benefits for about 273,000 families with children and adults on medical assistance, but does not affect seniors and disabled people.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the state won't discuss details until negotiations are complete.

Those who need to pick a new plan should get open enrollment material in early October, according to the state. They'll have until mid-December to pick a plan for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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