By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County to remain with Blue Cross

 


Finally, it’s final — for a year.

After at least two months of study on insurance options, Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau announced at the meeting of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners on November 28 that Blue Cross Blue Shield will continue through the area insurance cooperative to cover Carlton County employees for the next fiscal year.

Early in October, HealthPartners insurance coverage was presented to the county board with $340,000 savings in premiums the first year and a cap of 4 percent to increases for the next two years. Blue Cross Blue Shield countered that offer. In the process of making a decision, Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler advised no change could be done without the support of the seven unions that have labor contracts with Carlton County.

Some of the unions did approve the move to HealthPartners, but not all.

“We just ran out of time,” commented Genereau. “I was very impressed by the union leadership presentations to their members. They were very fair.”

“That said,” he continued, “in the upcoming months, we will be organizing an insurance committee made up of representatives from both the unions and the employer to explore our insurance options beyond 2017.”

Beyond these possible changes, Genereau observed, “I have been informed that Blue Cross has continued its insistence that the 200-plus doctors and 45-plus clinics in the (regional) Integrity Health System contract directly with them and not through the Integrity Health System. I am concerned that this may lead to a possible significant disruption in member benefits with this change should they not come to terms. There is nothing Carlton County government can do to change things for 2017.”

The commissioners approved hiring Wold Architects and Engineers out of the Twin Cities to develop a Carlton County Jail Needs Assessment at a cost of $66,745, paid for by existing reserve funds. This comes after a recommendation by the Carlton County Justice Partners Committee. The Carlton County Jail is one of the oldest operating jail systems in the state and was built following jail models from the 1940s and '50s — long obsolete.

“I know this is more money than we at first thought it would cost,” commented Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake. “In this proposal, Justice Concepts, Inc.'s Dr. Allen Beck will provide expertise to not only assess where we are now in a criminal justice program, but what types of inmates are coming into the system and what the future trends will be. Long range planning should be proactive and cover what we can do to prevent repeat offenders. This proposal is more costly, but is well worth it in long-term decision making and possible fallout from poor choices made now.”

Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services (HHS), offered, “We are serving many of these clients that go through the jail system. To make this happen, HHS can commit some funding from our current cash reserves.” The county board decided to use existing reserve funds instead.

County Highway Engineer Mike Tardy reported there will be some excess funds in the Transportation Budget at the end of the year. Salt and sand reserves for county road use are well-stocked. A number of pieces of older county road equipment have been updated for efficiency and safety of staff. For example, a grinder used during road maintenance has major dust control ability and improves worker safety when in use.

Major improvements are scheduled to be made to Arrowhead Lane, Highways 27, 73, and 289 in Moose Lake this coming summer. Traffic improvements, sidewalks and storm sewer repair are scheduled. Traffic flow will be disrupted. Carlton County has approved giving the Minnesota Department of Transportation a temporary easement on the Soo Line Trail for local traffic flow wherever and whenever needed.

 

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