ST. PAUL (AP) -- Critics of a pilot insurance program for smaller businesses said Friday the plan comes up short because it allows companies to escape covering crucial services such as prenatal care.
The Minnesota Health Care Consumer Protection Alliance -- a coalition of health, consumer and women's groups -- said the proposed plans are too lean.
''Options need to be based on good medicine, not on lowest cost,'' said Blanton Bessinger, president-elect of the Minnesota Medical Association.
The group wants the Legislature to make changes in the pilot project, approved last session. The plan allows companies with 50 or fewer employees to offer cheaper insurance because they don't have to offer coverage required of larger insurance programs. The department asked insurance groups to provide cost estimates on three options that don't cover all required services.
Insurance companies still would have to cover major services, such as hospitalization, physician services and lab tests. Maternity benefits would be required but prenatal care would not.
The insurance companies could decline to pay for diabetic supplies and reconstructive surgery, among other things. They also could exclude disabled dependents because of pre-existing conditions.
Deputy Commerce Commissioner Jim Bernstein called the attacks premature because no specific polices have been issued.
Carolyn Jones, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said requiring more coverage would make insurance prohibitively expensive for the smaller employers.
''It's hitting the businesses' bottom lines and they're struggling to provide coverage at all,'' Jones said.
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