MN court: Info on high-risk doctors can stay secret

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today ruled that an organization created by the Minnesota Legislature isn’t subject to data rules designed to allow access to some public records.

The Star Tribune attempted to get information from the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association, which was created by the Legislature in 1986 to provide insurance coverage to high-risk doctors, hospitals, foster homes, nursing homes, bars and other service providers having difficulty obtaining it through normal means. Half of its board is composed of people picked by the state’s commerce commissioner.

Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan ruled last year that the association is a public entity because it was created by the Legislature.

One year ago, reporter Brandon Stahl reported that the association “has spent at least $32 million over the last decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing patients.”

But the association refused to turn over records request by the Star Tribune under the Minnesota Data Privacy Act, arguing that it’s not a public entity. It says it’s more like a private business, especially since it doesn’t operate with taxpayer funds.

Today, Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Randolph Peterson ruled that the Legislature did not intend for the association to be a public entity, blocking reporter access to the records.

Here’s the ruling.