Blue Cross Stands Firm With Broad Support in Criticizing Lawsuit Against 'A Healthier Minnesota'
EAGAN, Minn., July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota CEO Mark Banks, M.D., along with supporters from the business and public health community, today criticized the latest challenge to efforts to improve the health of all Minnesot
"All these legal challenges do is further delay the implementation of health improvement programs, support for community clinics and the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association, and refunds to Blue Cross members," Banks said of a lawsuit commenced against Blue Cross on July 22 in Dakota County District Court. "The latest lawsuit is more of the same -- the same attorneys making the same claims they raised four years ago. Every court ruled in favor of Blue Cross in the earlier cases, and we expect the same result this time. It's unfortunate that unnecessary litigation will cause delay in our efforts to help our members and all Minnesotans."
"The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, representing 3,200 Minnesota businesses, supports the Blue Cross plan and believes it is a fair and equitable solution to subscribers who paid higher premiums for smoking-related costs," said Carolyn Jones, Director, Health Care & Transportation Policy, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. "This new lawsuit will delay the much-needed relief that many businesses are counting on."
"This lawsuit is terrible news for those who rely on Minnesota's health care safety net. It will only delay desperately needed money that would go to help improve the health of low-income and culturally diverse individuals," said Karl Self, board chair of the Neighborhood Healthcare Network.
"A Healthier Minnesota effectively addresses the cancer burden in Minnesota in four ways: by promoting early detection, by reducing the deadly impact of tobacco, by ensuring greater access to health care and by providing resources to chronically underserved populations," said Matt Flory of the American Cancer Society. "By delaying this plan, more people will needlessly suffer. More than 20,000 Minnesotans will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. The plan submitted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield sets aside a portion of the settlement proceeds for a broad-based campaign to prevent cancer and detect it early through public awareness and the enhanced use of clinical guidelines."
"We're dismayed by the lawsuit," said Laura Lipkin, board chair, Minnesota Primary Care Association. "It looks like the plaintiffs' attorneys are looking to strip away the money earmarked for the community clinics. That's a tragedy."
"This plan has already been through the wringer more than once," said David Jennings, former Minnesota Commerce Commissioner. "The Commerce Department has already approved it and numerous groups have spoken publicly about their support for it during a public comment period. Blue Cross' money is being used to benefit groups and individuals in more than one channel through refunds, prevention, and tax relief. It seems to me this new lawsuit represents a few lawyers just looking to win the lottery."
"A significant piece of the Blue Cross plan will put money available to a number of agencies and organizations to continue to reduce smoking and improve health," said Jerry Orr of the American Lung Association of Minnesota. "The lawsuit filed yesterday could substantially delay these initiatives."
A Healthier Minnesota will be funded entirely from the money tobacco companies are paying to Blue Cross as a result of the health plan's groundbreaking lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The initiative will be funded at no cost to taxpayers, Blue Cross subscribers or any other Minnesotan. It has received overwhelmingly broad support from health care professionals, businesses, and community organizations.
Blue Cross received approval from the Minnesota Department of Commerce on June 5 for its plan. Three components of the plan, involving $160 million in expenditures, required specific approval from the Minnesota Department of Commerce because the tobacco settlement had given the health plan a surplus reserve higher than allowed by state law:
Support for community clinics -- $30 million.
Elimination of the projected Minnesota
Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA) deficit -- $70 million.
Sharing a portion of the proceeds directly with Blue
Cross members -- up to $60 million.
The fourth component of A Healthier Minnesota did not require approval by the Department of Commerce. The $252 million investment in health improvement and prevention programs for all Minnesotans will focus on reducing tobacco use, improving cardiovascular health and preventing cancer. These are Minnesota's three biggest health challenges, taking a tremendous toll in lives and financial resources. The funds will be used over the next decade.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A not-for-profit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.