ST. PAUL-Minnesotans looking to buy new Medica individual insurance policies, but have not already made the purchase for 2017, are out of luck.

The state Commerce Department announced early Friday, Nov. 11, that Medica of Wisconsin and Medica Insurance Co. reached a cap on the number of new policies they are willing to sell. That means for most of the state, the companies stop selling policies to people who are not already customers.

People who already have Medica policies are not affected. Also unaffected are the majority of Minnesotans who get insurance through their employers or government programs.

Also, Medica has agreed to continue selling policies to residents of Benton, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison and Stearns counties, where Medica is the only insurer offering individual policies.

In most of the state outside the Twin Cities, the 4:44 a.m. Friday announcement means many Minnesotans will have just one choice: Blue Cross Blue Shield's Blue Plus health maintenance organization, which costs more than Medica and other policies, brings higher deductibles and may limit coverage for local doctors.

With Medica reaching the limit, individual policies will not be available either on the state's MNsure insurance sales site or by private sales offices.

For current Medica customers, existing coverage will automatically be renewed unless they cancel their policies by Dec. 31. Medica customers who want to change their policies should contact MNsure at (855) 366-7873, the Commerce Department says.

Medica has set its limit for new policy sales at 50,000. All insurers other than Blue Plus also have capped their sales, but only Medica has reached its limit.

Just two companies offered policies in most greater Minnesota counties.

Besides being limited, insurance policies costs are soaring next year. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman has announced average premium prices are rising 50 percent to 67 percent.

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders have discussed providing financial aid to help people facing the more costly insurance premiums. However, no deal has been reached and there has been no indication state leaders are close to an agreement that could lead to a special legislative session.