MINNEAPOLIS — An effort to recruit additional health insurers to Minnesota’s state-run exchange has come up empty.

State officials asked potential insurers last month to specify waivers of state laws or rules that might allow them to add options for coverage particularly outside the metro area, The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/2cFWUhq ) reported.

As of Friday’s deadline, no applicants surfaced. Two county-based groups that manage care for Medicaid enrollees in rural areas said they were interested, but couldn’t make it work for 2017.

Minnesota Department of Health officials said it’ll continue discussing and exploring those opportunities although it’s unlikely that coverage options can come together for the upcoming enrollment period.

MNsure is one of several government-run exchange markets that were launched under the federal Affordable Care Act in 2013. The websites are an option for people who don’t get coverage from an employer or government programs such as Medicaid, Medicare or MinnesotaCare.

About 5 percent of state residents currently buy coverage in the individual market, through insurers, brokers or MNsure.

Nationally, there is a growing concern about a lack of competition on exchanges next year as health insurers scale back due to increasing financial losses.

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare will depart next year from government-run exchanges in all but 3 of the 33 states where it currently competes. Two other large national carriers have announced similar pullbacks that don’t affect Minnesota.

Blue Shield of Minnesota and Eagan-based Blue Cross said in June it would drop individual market policies for about 100,000 people next year. Blue Cross will continue selling health maintenance organization plans to individuals, but those policies aren’t available in more than 10 rural counties.

The moves could leave some of those counties with options from only two carriers. It isn’t clear if there are any other potential gaps in competition because state regulators’ and insurers’ ongoing negotiations about 2017 options aren’t public.


Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com