UCare looks to salvage public program contracts

Published 8:58 am Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota health insurance company started a public push on Tuesday to maintain its foothold in the state’s public programs.

Minnesota contracts with health plans to cover low-income residents on MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. A new statewide competitive bidding process is slated to leave out UCare, forcing its 360,000 consumers to pick a new plan and costing the company a sizable portion of its business.

UCare representatives met Tuesday with state lawmakers to discuss the pending bid process. Company officials are also scheduled to meet with Gov. Mark Dayton Tuesday afternoon to make their case in a last-ditch effort to get back in.

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Before meeting with lawmakers Tuesday morning, CEO Jim Eppel said he hoped the company could prevail upon state officials and win back some of its contracts. Some counties have already said they plan to appeal the state’s preliminary bids.

UCare officials don’t know why the company lost out in its bid. Until the process is finished, the state can’t release much information about what factored into its decisions. Eppel said they haven’t received any word from the Department of Human Services about why UCare wasn’t selected for any counties for the next two-year contract starting in 2016.

UCare currently serves Medicaid clients in 58 of Minnesota’s 87 counties, and Eppel said the company received rave reviews from many of them.

“You see a disconnect between how UCare is viewed … and what’s happened here,” he said.

Before meeting with the company, Dayton said he’s sensitive to the company’s financial future and the possible upheaval of hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents being forced to switch health care plans. He said he would listen to UCare officials but was unsure what his options might be.

“The bottom line is it is a competitive process and they did not measure up to the competition,” the Democratic governor said.

Eppel said the company hasn’t yet figured out how axing its MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance business entirely would affect UCare’s workforce.