October 31, 2013
Since 2011, Public Record Media (PRM) has sought documentation related to the oversight and management of Minnesota’s public health care programs. We have published numerous stories and documents related to these matters, and continue to make public record requests to gather additional information.
Minnesota’s public health care programs are administered by private HMOs under contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and are also overseen in part also by the Departments of Health and Commerce. In order to conduct financial examinations required by state law, the Department of Health contracts with the Department of Commerce (DOC), due to the latter’s role in overseeing insurance companies operating in the state.
In November of 2012, PRM submitted a Data Practices Act (DPA) request to DOC in order to inspect data related to the 2009 financial examination, auditing, and review of four Minnesota HMOs that transact public program business. We also sought documents related to the 2009 financial position of those same organizations.
By February of 2013, Commerce had not responded to our request. On February 7th, we sent a follow-up letter seeking information about a date when inspection could be arranged, and to see if any clarification might be offered in order to fulfill our request.
By September of 2013, we had still received no response. We sent a third letter that requested a date for inspection, and noted that PRM would seek records through the administrative hearing process set out in the DPA if we received no response within fourteen business days. PRM’s legal counsel JT Haines called Commerce to see when records would be made available for inspection, but we received no response.
Once the fourteen day timeline expired, Haines called the state’s Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) to inquire about IPAD’s possible issuance of an advisory opinion regarding the timeliness of agency responses under the DPA. By way of background, IPAD issues such non-binding opinions to express its views about compliance with state law. IPAD opinions are beneficial when entering into the administrative hearing process, particularly if an agency has continued to withhold records once an opinion has been issued.
Shortly after its contact with IPAD, PRM received a partial response from Commerce, along with a selection of responsive documents. The documents included the 2009 financial examinations and annual financial statements for four HMOs – Blue Plus, Health Partners, Medica, and UCare Minnesota. Those reports are now available in PRM’s document archive. Reports for a variety of other years can be found at this DOC web link.
PRM is currently in discussions with DOC regarding additional documents relevant to our request which have not yet been provided, including departmental correspondence and contracts with actuaries. We will post those records – or additional information as to their status – once available.