ST. PAUL, Minn.Minnesotas state employees will get $250 on a debit card for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses and have online access to personal health records, pricing and quality data starting next year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced. The goal is for all Minnesotans to have online personal health records by 2011, he said. As a first step, Pawlenty has directed the state Finance & Employee Relations Department to seek proposals for secure and portable online health records for the states 50,000 employees, which will launch next year. Because the Minnesota Advantage Health Plan, the health plan for state employees, is doing better than expected financially, the state is able to give members $250 in January on a debit card to pay out-of-pocket healthcare costs. All state employees will also get a debit card to access their Flexible Spending Accounts and to encourage use of such accounts. Today, only 30% of employees use these spending accounts, the governors office said. Also in January 2009, Minnesotas private health plans will begin providing pricing and quality data on hospitals and other providers on a single Web site. The Web site will have data on the 100 most common procedures, top 25 laboratory tests by volume and top 90% of high-tech imaging and X-ray procedures, the governor said at the annual meeting of Smart Buy Alliance, a state coalition of employers and other healthcare purchasers dedicated to improving healthcare delivery.
CHICAGOBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois announced it will no longer pay for costs related to medical errors, including hospital-acquired conditions and mistakes known as never events. The Blues plans have been rolling out their no-pay policies since early 2008, after the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said during a November 2007 conference that the plans would be implemented across the country. Illinois joins other Blues plans, including Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Texas, which made similar announcements recently. The insurer will work with hospitals to implement its plan, but at this point it has not defined which specific conditions and never events will be covered, an Illinois Blues spokeswoman said. Other Blues plans, in addition to other insurers that have announced no-pay policies, model their lists after the CMS list of conditions and errors for which it will stop reimbursing starting Oct. 1. Never events typically include errors named by the National Quality Forum as events that should not ever occur in a hospital, such as wrong-site surgery or discharging an infant to the wrong family. Hospital-acquired conditions mostly refer to problems that develop following a medical procedure, such as catheter-related urinary tract infections and pressure ulcers.