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370,000 Minnesotans in public health programs will have to switch insurers

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Sign-up for two of Minnesota's public health insurance programs will continue as scheduled.

UCare – a health insurance provider with about 370,000 current customers – argues the state’s competitive bidding process for the Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs was illegal.

And last month, the company filed a lawsuit against the state, while asking a judge to delay this week's enrollment start.

But in a ruling issued Thursday, Judge Robert Awsumb said there wasn't enough evidence to support UCare's claims the bidding process was unfair and denied the request, the Star Tribune reports.

Enrollment in the programs will continue as scheduled, and the lawsuit UCare filed is set to go to trial in November, MPR notes.

UCare's hundreds of thousands of current customers will have to switch providers, the Star Tribune notes.

The judge said having time to complete that transition also played a role in the ruling, The Associated Press reports.

UCare was dropped as an option from Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare after a competitive bidding process – a move that Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson has said would save $450 million starting next year, MPR reported.

Blue Cross, HealthPartners and Medica got the winning contracts.

UCare, however, says the bidding violated state statutes, and in Ramsey County District Court filed the lawsuit requesting the scheduled Sept. 1 enrollment date for the two public health insurance programs be delayed, the Business Journal reported.

MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance

MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance help provide health insurance for thousands of lower-income Minnesotans.

For MinnesotaCare, the income limit for eligibility is 133 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines – that’s a family of one making about $15,000-$23,000 a year.

It’s funded by a state tax on Minnesota hospitals and health care providers, federal Medicaid funds and enrollee premiums, according to the Department of Human Services.

Those making less are eligible for the separate Medical Assistance program, which is the largest of Minnesota’s publicly funded health program with about 700,000 enrolled, the department says. State and federal funds help pay for it.

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