Around Cook County
Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. The stalemate between Blue Cross and North Shore Hospital is working its way to a resolution. Great Lakes shipping is being affected by lack of dredging. No surprise, fishing is big business and worker minimum wage levels are on track to increase.…all in this week’s news.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota has altered its plans to change its payment methodology. Lori Nelson, Blue Cross Vice President, contacted Cook County North Shore Hospital administrator Kimber Wraalstad yesterday. Wraalstad told WTIP the adjustments will apply to all rural critical access hospitals.
Blue Cross had originally scheduled major payment changes to smaller hospitals on May 1. Implementation of the new system has now been moved to January 1. Individual hospitals have negotiated contracts with Blue Cross for how they are reimbursed and at what rates. The insurer had proposed major changes to those contracts.
Wraalstad said Blue Cross will assist hospitals in obtaining the 3M Grouper software and pay for ½ of the software costs for one year. The softwear provides a coding mechanism hospitals use to bill Blue Cross for reimbursements. The Minnesota Hospital Association maintained the May 1 change over was too soon to accommodate adopting the complex coding system.
In addition, Wraalstad said “Blue Cross will develop some type of process or ‘safety net’ for critical access hospitals with insufficient operating margins to cover the cost of Blue Cross commercial members.”
She added at this time, neither Blue Cross nor the hospital will be proceeding with termination as an Institutional Service Provider. Wraalstad had received a service termination letter from Blue Cross late last week.
On Monday, the Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and Attorney General Lori Swanson, met individually with Blue Cross executives to discuss the issue.
Wraalstad said, “We are appreciative that Michael Guyette, Blue Cross CEO, and his Executive Management team are willing to participate in negotiations so that the community members and visitors to Cook County will continue to have access to services at Cook County North Shore Hospital and Care Center.”
Blue Cross is proposing changes in how they pay small hospitals and how much. It could result in a 12.2 percent cut to Cook County North Shore Hospital. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with hospital administrator Kimber Wraalstad about the impact on them and their patients.
Ready to move it with your neighbors all the way down to New Orleans? WTIP volunteer Tracy Benson spoke with Kristin Wharton and Hartley Newell-Acero on Wednesday’s AM Community Calendar.
More information at sawtoothmountainclinic.org/events
(Click on A.M. Calendar link below to hear interview)
Small businesses and the people who work for them may be happy to learn that a local, nonprofit health coverage program is available at a cost they might be able to afford.
HealthShare was established four years ago by a group of area health care providers and foundations. Their goal was to reduce the number of uninsured by providing health and wellness services to working families in Cook, Lake, St. Louis, and Carlton counties through an affordable, employer-sponsored health coverage program.
About 500,000 people in Minnesota are currently uninsured.
Health Share Inc. Executive Director Jenny Peterson spoke to a group of businesspeople at a Business Networking Luncheon sponsored by Cook County Higher Education on March 27, 2013. She said funding for the program comes from employers, employees, and the community, including local foundations and health care organizations. “Definitely the health care system sees the value in this,” she said, adding that the Affordable Care Act is only going to cover about 60 percent of uninsured Americans.
Preventative care is an key component of HealthShare, which offers reduced costs for people who go through health risk criteria and set two health goals with a care manager once a year. People who do not take preventative measures, such as taking medication to avoid a health crisis, end up needing higher-costing health care. “We strongly believe in wellness and promoting health,” Peterson said.
Services that are covered include primary and specialty office visits, hospital and emergency care, pharmacy (up to a certain amount), lab, radiology, physical and occupational therapy, equipment and supplies, and up to 20 behavioral health visits a year.
While you’re doing your spring cleaning, consider donating your gently used books to the Library Friends.
These books, recent magazines, videos, DVDs, and CDs are needed for the Friends’ annual book sale Aug. 1-3. Income from this sale helps support the Grand Marais Public Library and all public school libraries in Cook County. Sorry, moldy or musty books, textbooks, cassettes and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books cannot be accepted. Donations received by July 10 will be included in the sale.
Books should be brought to the library. Do not put these items in the outside drop box. For more information call the library at (218) 387-1140.