Some will rob you with a fountain pen

Woody Guthrie sang it and it’s still true: Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen. 

Medica, a Minnesota nonprofit health insurance company, recently sent $90 million of Minnesotans’ money to a for-profit affiliate. They could do this because Republicans in the legislature have gutted protections in Minnesota law. 

2017 has been a bad year for Minnesotans who want access to high-quality affordable health care. The Republican-led legislature let for-profit health insurance companies sell policies in Minnesota for the first time and repealed a law (Section 62D.12, sub 9) that for over 40 years had assured Minnesota that extra money accumulated by nonprofit health insurance companies would be used to provide health care in Minnesota. Repealing that law lets companies grab hundreds of millions of dollars that represent overcharges to Minnesota taxpayers and patients. 

Attorney General Swanson deserves credit for raising concerns about this and proposing legislative language to protect Minnesotans’ money. Her efforts resulted in a two-year moratorium that stops a nonprofit insurer from transferring “all or a substantial portion of its assets” to a for-profit company. But this did not go far enough.

The Minnesota Department of Health approved Medica’s transfers, saying the transfers of $30 and $90 million were less than “a substantial portion” of Medica’s assets.

Join me in calling on the Dayton Administration to rescind the approval and—along with Attorney General Swanson— sue Medica to stop it from giving away $90 million of Minnesota’s health care money. 

The transfer of $90 million—11.2% of Medica’s assets—is certainly “substantial” enough to violate the law. It’s bad enough that Republicans opened Minnesota’s insurance market to for-profit corporations. Minnesota’s nonprofit health insurers have overcharged Minnesota’s public health care programs for years. We should not stand by idly and watch them ship our money to their out-of-state for-profit affiliates.

Weekly EmailLeo Alfred