Judge rejects UCare bid to halt public health program signup

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Updated 4:55 p.m. | Posted 2:48 p.m.

A judge has denied UCare's request to block the Minnesota Department of Human Services from moving ahead with new Medicaid and MinnesotaCare contracts that would take effect next year.

In denying UCare's motion, Ramsey County District Court Judge Robert Awsumb wrote that he could not conclude the DHS bidding process was "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable."

The open enrollment process slated to begin Friday will go on. Meanwhile, the lawsuit proceeds with a trial set for November.

Of the state's largest HMOs, UCare serves the most public program clients. UCare argues without court intervention it will lose nearly 380,000 enrollees to other insurance companies.

The Minneapolis-based insurer also accuses the department of acting outside of the law in awarding the contracts.

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson applauded the judge's decision.

"Today, the court denied UCare's bid to upend and disrupt a competitive bidding process that was fair and deliberate," she said in a statement. "By requiring insurers to compete for the state's business, we are driving better quality health care, at lower costs."

UCare officials said they were disappointed by the court's decision and would be evaluating next steps. "Our intent at this time is to continue to pursue all available options to remain a choice for high-quality coverage and services for low-income individuals and families," the firm said in a statement.

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