EMPLOYER COALITIONS: BHCAG May Relinquish Plan Management
Edina, Minn.-based Patient Choice Healthcare, Inc. is negotiating with Buyers Health Care Action Group to take over management of the 140,000-member Choice Plus health plan, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Founded by BHCAG, an employer coalition, Choice Plus is only offered to 47 large Upper Midwest employers. However, Patient Choice hopes to market the product as a "low-cost option" to all Minnesota employers over the next year and will work with other employer groups to develop similar plans. BHCAG will relinquish daily administrative duties, but will continue to "play a strong role" in setting the plan's long term goals. Choice Plus has garnered national attention because it allows employers to directly contract with providers, removing the HMO middleman. BHCAG officials indicated that the model has helped contain health costs because it allows consumers to "make wiser health care buying decisions." Under the plan, BHCAG's health care costs increased 7.5% last year, compared to the 11.7% overall increase by Minnesota HMOs, according to BHCAG Board Chair Carolyn Pare. Patient Choice CEO and Co-Chair Randy Herman said, "We are going to be out in the marketplace as a viable option. Employers are seeing a lot of high premium rate increases, which creates a lot of interest in new ventures." Carolyn Jones of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce agreed, adding, "I would expect that there may be some good interest out there for this product. As we've gone around the state, we are hearing that employers want additional options" (Howatt, 8/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.