Allina, Blue Cross team up on Minn. health plan

Published 10:29 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Two major Minnesota health care companies have teamed up to offer a new insurance plan they say was specifically designed to address what people don’t like about their current plans.

Allina Health and insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota unveiled the new offering Tuesday. The Star Tribune reports it offers a handful of free office visits along with full coverage of many prescription drugs and lab screenings. It also eliminates many co-pays.

The companies said the plan known as “BluePrint” was formed after interviews with patients and employers as well as doctors. The plan will be available for individuals, families and large and small employers in 11 counties around the Twin Cities area. It will be sold through the state’s MNsure exchange starting in October, and through brokers and Blue Cross.

Email newsletter signup

“We tried to strip everything out that got in the way of optimal patient care,” said Dr. Robert Wieland, executive vice president of Allina’s clinic and community division.

The partnership shows how changes in federal and state health care laws, along with rising medical costs, are pushing traditional adversaries to work together. Providers are facing declining reimbursements for their work, leaving them with greater incentive to keep patients healthier.

“It’s an evolutionary step in the market, but there’s a lot of merit to a movement like this,” said Steve Parente, a health care economist and professor at the University of Minnesota. “I can see it working both in terms of consumer appeal as well as in the nuts and bolts of the actuarial parts of it.”

The companies said the price for coverage will be lower than in “open choice” plans offered by Blue Cross, because participants will be limited to Allina Hospitals, clinics and the 53 independent physicians in its network.

The plan will be open to anyone, but it targets people with diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol — three chronic conditions that can be costly for patients and providers if sufferers wind up in the hospital. Patients will also get discounts for participating in workshops aimed at encouraging healthy decisions.