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Published September 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

Medica to offer individual health coverage in North Dakota

Medica, which provides more than 1.4 million customers with health insurance, announced Thursday that it will offer coverage to individuals in North Dakota starting Oct. 1.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

Medica, which provides more than 1.4 million customers with health insurance, announced Thursday that it will offer coverage to individuals in North Dakota starting Oct. 1.

The health insurer, which has offered group coverage in North Dakota for 15 years, is responding to demand for more alternatives to offer consumers, an executive said.

“I think the citizens of North Dakota just need some viable options,” said Charlene Maher, Medica’s vice president and general manager of individual business.

Adam Hamm, North Dakota’s insurance commissioner, welcomed the entry of Medica in the individual health insurance market.

“The decision to bring additional choices to North Dakota consumers from a company that has a history here indicates that the market is attractive,” he said. “I firmly believe competition is key to ensuring the highest quality of products is offered at affordable prices.”

Hamm is reviewing an application by Sanford to offer its health insurance, the Sanford Plan, beginning Jan. 1. Sanford Health, based in Sioux Falls, and Fargo-based MeritCare hospital plan to merge later this year.

Independent agents who make up Medica’s sales force had been asking the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company to offer individual coverage in North Dakota, Maher said.

Medica covers 12,000 North Dakota residents through group plans, ranking it second, with 4.6 percent of the overall market, behind Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, with almost 90 percent.

Most of Medica’s 1.4 million customers are in Minnesota, but it also provides coverage in South Dakota, where it began selling individual policies in recent years.

When Medica entered the North Dakota market 15 years ago, it set a goal of capturing a market share of 50,000 to 100,000 customers. That goal remains in effect, Maher said.

Medica started offering individual health insurance in 2005, and covers 19,000 individuals, according to company figures.

Its North Dakota sales office is in Fargo. Its provider network includes all major North Dakota health systems, and is available in 91 percent of the state.

Medica’s service area in North Dakota includes all counties except Benson, Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail and Wells.

The company will take a “disciplined approach” in marketing, and its plans incorporate wellness and preventive health, Maher said. “We’ll do exactly what the market wants us to do,” she said.

“We face a lot of competition every day, and we believe Medica will be a strong competitor,” said Denise Kolpack, vice president of corporate communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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