Minnesota certifies a new HMO

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY
  • Star Tribune
  • February 16, 2012 - 8:32 PM

Wisconsin-based Gundersen Lutheran Health Plan on Thursday became the first health maintenance organization since 1998 to be licensed to do business in Minnesota.

Gundersen operates about 40 clinics in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Its Minnesota operations are mainly in Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Winona counties in southeastern Minnesota.

With the Minnesota Health Department certification, the Onalaska, Wis., organization can take part in health insurance exchanges in 2014 as it moves into the home base of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

More than 1 million Minnesotans and small businesses are expected to buy coverage through the exchanges, a key part of the Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges, being debated in the Minnesota Legislature and nationwide this year, are intended to be a competitive marketplace where consumers can compare plans and shop for health coverage.

"We think the exchanges, as they're envisioned in federal health care reform legislation, are going to be an important way for many people to obtain health insurance in the future," said Dr. Gary Lenth, CEO and medical director for the health plan. "Participating in the exchanges is part of our strategic plan in the future."

Gundersen now sells only group insurance to businesses, but the exchanges could open up business in the individual market.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System launched its health plan in 1995 as a way to pay for employees' health care, but has since expanded. It has more than 90,000 members in Iowa and Wisconsin.

"We welcome Gundersen to the Minnesota market," Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger said in a statement.

Staff writer Wendy Lee contributed to this report. Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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