Coalition: No answers yet from Attorney General’s office about Medicare Advantage issue at MercyOne

Published 5:20 pm Monday, May 23, 2022

Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition leaders updated the public Sunday night on various topics, including how talks fared with the attorney general back in March.

“A lot of people are wondering whatever happened to our conversation with the attorney general,” said Brad Arends, the president of the coalition. “We did have a follow-up conversation with the attorney general. Frankly, I expected more because … we did all the talking and they did all the listening,” 

Arends explained no answers were provided on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plan, where MercyOne Albert Lea Family Medicine & Speciality Care clinic is not in-network. He also admitted he didn’t know where their work on the project stood.

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“Disappointing, quite frankly,” he said. “Is it dead? No. It’s not dead. If it was dead, they would have told us.”

The Medicare Advantage program is in-network for Mayo Clinic, and the contract between the insurance provider and the hospital is perfectly legal, though Arends is confident another conversation will take place at some point.

The coalition reached out to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but Arends said he wasn’t expecting anything from her office.

“In terms of the Blue Cross Medicare Advantage program, it is what it is right now,” he said. “Let’s wait until the enrollment period and see how other insurance companies have responded to the opportunity perhaps, and maybe there will be a new product from somebody else that is better.”

Currently, the MercyOne clinic provides services for ears, nose and throat, urology, cardiology, orthopedics, sleep, neurology, plastics and dermatology. The clinic provides MRIs and echocardiograms on Mondays. Same-day and next-day appointments are also now available.

Dave Mullenbach, trustee on the building committee, said there was still about 7,100 to 7,200 square feet left to rent.

“We have three big spaces left,” Mullenbach said. “But it can be divided up.”

According to Arends, the coalition has spoken with pharmacies, kidney dialysis specialists and eye care contacts.

“We’re trying to make these businesses that are natural compliments to our medical facility that we have out there,” Arends said.  

Jean Eaton, the trustee in charge of community relations, announced furniture for the commons area was coming July 1.

“As you come in from the mall into our building, into [the old Herberger’s], that’s what we call the commons,” she said.

Hearing Associates recently held a fundraiser for the coalition, in which they were able to present a check for $5,000.

Charlie Newell, the trustee in charge of fundraising, wants people to save the date: Saturday, Nov. 5, when a gala is being planned.

“We’re planning to have an evening of dancing, a live band,” he said. 

The event will be at Northridge Mall, and more details will be forthcoming.

Steve Tufte, treasurer for the coalition, reported the coalition received $4.1 million between the start of 2020 and April 2022. Four spaces in the coalition’s building have been rented out. According to Tufte, 1,676 new patients visited the clinic since the end of 2021. By the end of March, there were 2,481 new patients. Four businesses representing 1,400 employees had also signed up in the business clinic. According to Tufte, a business clinic is when a business establishes its own clinic for “basic, office-type visits.” 

A medical shop recently opened up on the east side of the mall and will provide walkers, canes and sleep machines among other types of equipment. There will be an open house on June 14, times to be determined.