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Patrick Springer, Published June 11 2010

Sanford group plan approved for sale in North Dakota

The Sanford Health Plan now has the OK to begin selling its group insurance coverage to employers in North Dakota.

The announcement, made Thursday, has been expected since February, when North Dakota insurance regulators gave Sanford approval to sell in the state but still was reviewing plan coverage details.

Sanford’s entrance in North Dakota’s private health insurance market will introduce a new player in a field that is thoroughly dominated by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, with Twin Cities-based Medica a distant second.

The Sanford Health Plan is a subsidiary of Sanford Health-MeritCare and covers more than 64,000 in South Dakota, northwest Iowa, western Minnesota and now North Dakota.

Sanford health insurance sold to the individual market, including those who are self-employed, is expected to be available later this year.

The Sanford plan will be sold through independent insurance agents. “Initial response by North Dakota agents has been extremely positive,” said Ruth Krystopolski, president of the Sanford Health Plan.

One of those agents, Dan Fremling, president of Fargo insurance brokerage Fremling & Associates, said the Sanford plan will give consumers more options to consider.

“Competition’s good for everybody,” he said, adding that competitive pressure should help rates and plan designs, though he said it isn’t clear yet how significant Sanford will become in the North Dakota market.

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