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Park Nicollet to Cut Off Care to Thousands of Minnesota Seniors
Date:3/19/2008

Attorney General says Healthcare provider is putting Profits before

Patients

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn., March 19 /PRNewswire/ -- With Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson at their side, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 leaders today at a news conference urged Park Nicollet Health Services to reconsider its decision to cut off medical coverage to several thousand Minnesota seniors.

"This is a death sentence for our retirees," said Local 49 Business Manager Glen Johnson. "Many of these seniors are vulnerable adults. They can't handle the disruption in care. Park Nicollet should be ashamed of itself. This isn't a union issue. It's a healthcare access issue."

Park Nicollet recently sent letters to nearly 100 Local 49 retirees and close to 3,000 Minnesota Seniors informing them that as of April 1, Park Nicollet will no longer accept their health insurance. The retirees all have federally approved Medicare Advantage Private Fee-For-Service (MA PFFS) plans, one of the fastest growing types of managed care programs in the U.S. There are nearly 1.7 million beneficiaries today compared to only 20-thousand in 2005.

In a series of recent letters to Park Nicollet, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said Park Nicollet, a non-profit, should be mindful of its commitment to the care of vulnerable patients, which "ought to take precedence over financial gain."

"Park Nicollet is clearly putting profits before its patients," Swanson said. "Unless and until our Medicare system is changed, I believe that, as a non-profit organization, Park Nicollet should provide access to all seniors who have Medicare approved health plans."

According to a 2007 Kaiser Family Foundation study, PFFS plans offer enrollees few restrictions on access to care and the prospect of reduced out of pocket costs. In fact the CMS says those costs are real, estimating that MA PFFS plans provide approximately $1100 in additional benefits to each senior every year.

"I find it very odd that Park Nicollet would cut off access to longstanding vulnerable patients because it believes, in its wisdom, that the seniors should have chosen a different plan approved by Medicare," Swanson said. "It clearly is not Park Nicollet's role to decide whether a Medicare recipient has chosen an inappropriate Medicare-approved plan and penalize the senior for allegedly doing so."

"This is exactly what's wrong with our healthcare system," Johnson said. "We find plans that benefits our members, but the provider drops the coverage because it isn't making enough money. We're trying to stop Park Nicollet from leaving our seniors out in the cold in order to prevent other providers from doing the same thing in the future."

ABOUT MA PFFS PLANS

MA PFFS plans wrap physician and hospital services in one. Instead of paying beneficiaries' claims directly, the federal government pays insurance companies to manage the care in order to reduce Medicare spending.

ABOUT LOCAL 49

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 is a labor union 13,000 members strong in Minnesota and the Dakotas. For more information on this issue or to learn more about Local 49 click on their website. http://www.local49.org


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SOURCE The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49
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