Group to focus on bringing 2nd health care provider to Albert Lea

Published 8:02 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

A local group looking to reclaim health care services lost in Mayo Clinic Health System’s decision to transfer most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin recently hired a national consultant, signaling the organization is working toward bringing in a second health care provider to Albert Lea.

The name of the consultant hired by Save Our Healthcare — formerly Save Our Hospital — has not been released. The city of Albert Lea and Freeborn County did not pay a portion of the contract, unlike when the entities hired Quorum Health Resources LLC last year to perform a feasibility study regarding a potential second health care provider in Albert Lea.

Save Our Healthcare hired the consultant to help the organization on its path to restore lost services in Albert Lea, take back control of local health care services and reduce the cost of health care, said Chairman Brad Arends.

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The first phase of the study is expected to be complete in mid-August.

The name of the group of residents has changed as the organization shifts its focus from attempting to get Mayo to stop the transition to retaining health care services in Albert Lea and reducing health care costs.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the community will have a say on whether the city pays for consultant work beyond the first phase of the contract, which is expected to include a financial analysis on the economic impact a second provider would have on the community.

“We don’t want to invite another health care provider to come in only to have them do the same thing,” Arends said. “What we’re trying to do is to restore those essential services that are lost.

“Mayo will still be there, there will just be competition for it.”

Arends noted a family of four with parents in their 40s and children in their early teen years is estimated to pay $5,000 more in health care costs than a similar family in downtown Minneapolis because of the lack of competition in health care delivery.

Arends, CEO of financial firm intellicents, said high health care costs are putting local employers at a “huge disadvantage.”

Arends and Adams participated in a meeting with large Albert Lea employers 1 1/2 months ago, and they said businesses in attendance unanimously supported restructuring their health care plans from Mayo to a separate provider if prices were 20 to 30 percent lower.

Since then, Arends said two Albert Lea employers and a Blue Earth employer structured their health care plans to take Mayo out of their network. He said the Albert Lea businesses have seen savings of 22 percent and 29 percent.

Arends said the idea for the consultant began after Quorum found that a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea is feasible if certain conditions are met. After the report was announced, Arends said alternative health systems ranging from alternative care systems and hospitals to health care organizations providing services such as outpatient surgeries, orthopedics and urology expressed interest in locating to Albert Lea.

“We started to do a lot of research in conjunction with — it was basically Chad, myself and Craig Ludtke, who is the chair of that (second provider) subcommittee — and we had a lot of discussions with these people,” he said. “Some of them came to us, and we went to some of them.

“At the end of the day, we learned a lot, and what we learned is that this is a very viable alternative.”

Arends said the organization learned full-service clinic and outpatient surgery centers “went hand and glove.”

He acknowledged Save Our Healthcare is no longer trying to get Mayo to bring back hospital services.

“We’re not attempting to save that hospital anymore,” he said. “We couldn’t. We couldn’t do it, so now we’re trying to just save our health care by restoring, controlling and then reducing the costs. You know, it may actually turn out to be very, very positive for Albert Lea that we were not successful in negotiating with Mayo, because if we can end up with a restoration of services and competition that results in lower costs, that’s a big economic boom for Albert Lea when you really think about it, because unlike a lot of other area communities that just still have a Mayo facility, we will have a choice.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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