Ann Marie Metzger, The Fight Goes On!

When TakeAction Minnesota’s Together for Health Care team launched our campaign on February 26th, one of our goals was to highlight ways that HMOs and private insurance companies are profiting from our public medical assistance programs.

We objected to the billions of dollars of surplus and profits held by these insurance companies in their “reserves.” We stated that tax dollars appropriated for health care should be spent on health care.

At the time of our launch, we requested meetings with several HMOs to discuss these concerns. Since that time, we have had meetings with the four biggest HMOs in Minnesota, and, quite frankly, our concerns remain.

The HMOs in our state continue to sit on massive reserves. The state’s four biggest HMOs—Medica, Blue Cross, Health Partners, and UCare—have $518 million dollars in excess reserves—that’s money OVER AND ABOVE a reasonable reserve level.

And we continue to see this disturbing trend. With the recent release of their financial reports for 2010, we have learned that the state’s non-profit insurance companies generated profit margins by administering Minnesota’s public programs that in some cases were double what they earned on their private health insurance business. This profit, instead of being returned to the state or used to provide health care, will add to their reserves.

We are not alone in our concerns about HMOs. Governor Dayton recognizes this as well. In his Executive Order of March 23, 2011, the Governor acknowledged that “the State spends 3 billion dollars annually on purchasing health care from managed care plans for state public programs” and that the State needs more accountability and transparency in order to discover how our health care dollars are being used by the HMOs and other insurance companies.

We look forward to a more aggressive and comprehensive review of our “non-profit” insurance companies and we applaud the Dayton Administration’s commitment to this task.  But we must not stop there. We must also address the issues of reserves.

Last week, we delivered a bill to the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, telling them that we want the $518 million back so we can use it for health care. No one responded to our request. So we will keep pushing until our voices are heard.

Not only will we be keeping our eye on the profits of the HMOs and fighting for a cap on their reserves, we will be fighting for the Health Plans to give back their excess reserve money to the state so we can preserve and improve our health care programs.

I encourage you to come join in this fight. Click here to find out how you can get involved.

Ann Marie Metzger

Ann Marie Metzger is a TakeAction Minnesota member and health care leader.  She lives in Woodbury.

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