Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Hospital-Blue Cross stalemate moves toward resolve

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 5:28am

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.”

Hospital and Blue Cross in reimbursement stand-off

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 3:47am

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.

Attached file

Move It in May starts today

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 11:32am

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

(Click on A.M. Calendar link below to hear interview)

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View more news from WTIP

HealthShare could help small businesses

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 10:52am

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.

Library Friends needs your books

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 10:51am

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.

School counselor position receives overwhelming support

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 11:28am

The Jane Mianowski Conference Room at Cook County High School was filled with students at the April 18, 2013 ISD 166 school board meeting, determined to convince the school board to keep Bryan Hackbarth and his school counseling position.
At the March meeting, the board had voted to eliminate the job, although Superintendent Beth Schwarz assured them that they could add it back.
Colton Thompson presented a petition signed by 140 students asking the board to reinstate the position.  He said before the petition was created he couldn’t walk down the street without people asking him if there was a petition he could sign.  “I don’t know how much community feedback I’ve gotten.  Everybody is just really impressed with the job [Bryan Hackbarth] does,” Thompson said.  “To get rid of him would be absolutely foolish.”
Bjorn Johnson said it would be easy to just graduate and wash his hands of the matter, but he strongly believed letting go of the counseling position was the wrong decision.  “We need a guidance counselor at CCHS,” he said. Classmates have told him they couldn’t have graduated without Bryan Hackbarth’s help.  Johnson said that he had never seen students band together in such a way and that he believed the school could actually use two full-time counselors. 
CCHS would have a lot more dropouts without Bryan Hackbarth, Ali Iverson said. 
Colton Deschampe’s mother, Sherri, who attended CCHS, said Bryan Hackbarth was the best counselor the school has ever had.
Colton Thompson’s grandmother, Arvis Thompson, read from the school stationery on which board meeting agendas are printed.  It states in part, “We provide a safe environment in which mental and physical health is a priority.”  “It sounds like Brian is the key to your mental health,” she said.