Community action agencies may soon be eligible to participate in a statewide insurance pool for public employees.
Minnesota currently has 28 community action agencies – private nonprofits focused on eliminating poverty and helping people become self-sufficient. The agencies employ a combined total of about 5,000 employees around the state.
But some have had trouble finding affordable health insurance plans for their staff, according to Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead). He sponsors HF789 that would let them participate in the state’s Public Employee Insurance Program, which provides insurance benefits to local government employees.
“I have worked extensively with community action agencies around the state … and they are a very, very important service to people who have great needs,” Lanning said.
The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. There is no Senate companion.
Arnie Anderson, executive director of the Minnesota Community Action Partnership, said it is unlikely that all 5,000 community action employees would participate. He said the bill would primarily benefit those in Greater Minnesota, who have a harder time finding affordable insurance plans than those in the metro area.
“In the greater metropolitan area, it’s much easier to get competitive bids … this bill before you today is basically to offer one additional option for Greater Minnesota,” he said.
Mike Thorsteinson, executive director of Three Rivers Community Action, said annual insurance premiums for his staff have risen from $130,000 just five years ago to $360,000 now because they can’t find another competitive bid. He estimated the additional cost prevents them from hiring five to six new staff members.
“It is an issue around greater Minnesota,” Thorsteinson said.