Judge will issue a second ruling on Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association’s bid to keep records private.
One month after a judge ordered a state-created insurance company to immediately hand over its records to the Star Tribune, the company was back in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday arguing that its records should stay private.
The Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association, an “insurer of last resort” because it covers only high-risk doctors, hospitals, bars and other service providers, has repeatedly argued that because it operates like a business, its records shouldn’t be subject to the state’s open records laws.
Both the state agency charged with settling public records disputes and Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan have disagreed, saying MJUA is a public entity because it was created by a public body to serve a public purpose. Yet the association still refuses to turn over records of its finances and its policyholders, data that the Star Tribune first requested in January.
MJUA’s attorney, Paula Vraa, argued Wednesday that Marrinan should stay her Aug. 1 order until MJUA can get a ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals on whether it’s subject to the open records law.
“We do want to have a higher court review this,” Vraa said.
The Star Tribune’s attorney, John Borger, argued that process could take months or even years, and would harm the public’s right to prompt access to government records.
“This is public data. You’ve decided it’s public data,” Borger told the judge.
Marrinan at times appeared frustrated with MJUA. As the hearing began, she asked Vraa, “Are you sure you’re going to appeal the court’s judgment?” She also told Vraa that MJUA “got an answer from the court” on whether the group was public and chided MJUA for failing to provide other records sought by the Star Tribune’s attorneys.
Marrinan said it could take up to 90 days to issue a ruling.
The Star Tribune reported in May that MJUA has spent at least $32 million over the past decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing their patients.
Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626