The state’s highest court will hear arguments Monday over whether a state-created insurance company must open its records to the public.
The Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association (MJUA) was created by the Legislature to offer liability coverage for providers like doctors, nurses and hospitals that are considered such high risk they cannot get insurance in the private market.
In early 2013, the Star Tribune sought records of policyholders from the association. In response, the MJUA sued the Star Tribune, arguing that its records are private and not subject to the state’s open records law.
A Ramsey County district judge sided with the newspaper and ordered the MJUA to immediately provide the records.
The MJUA appealed, and in June the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in its favor, saying that when the Legislature formed the MJUA in 1976, it did not intend for it to be a state agency.
The Star Tribune appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case in August.
The newspaper reported in May 2013 that the MJUA has spent at least $32 million over the past decade to settle claims. That includes $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing their patients.
Because most MJUA policyholders have to prove they can’t get insurance from the private market, some contend the MJUA keeps bad providers in business. Supporters of the group say it provides an essential protection for consumers to allow them to recover damages from providers in cases of harm or negligence.
Paula Vraa, the MJUA’s attorney, said she will argue to the Supreme Court that the records should be private because the association is funded by policyholder premiums, not tax dollars.
“We do have the privacy of the policyholders at heart and that’s why we did bring this lawsuit — to get clarity on that,” Vraa said.