After three years of discussing the Essential Health Plan, a joint powers board of Crow Wing, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties voted 4-1 Friday to withdraw its proposal from the State Department of Human Services.
Terry Sluss, Crow Wing County commissioner, was the lone dissenter. He wanted to continue the plan.
"I am real disappointed," he said. "I believe we can do this."
When the board met in February, it voted 3-2 to continue with the process of submitting the request for proposal to the state. Then in support of the proposal were Sluss, Joanne Pels, Cass County commissioner, and Tony Haasser, chair of the board and Todd County commissioner.
Don Meyer, Morrison County commissioner, and Paul Nolte, Wadena County commissioner, did not support the plan.
The Essential Health Plan is a five county-based purchasing program for managed health care that would assist clients with a low income at a grassroots level. The program involves contracts with area medical providers, from pharmacists to major hospitals. The plan allows more choices than the state alternative.
Now the commissioners will go back to their county boards and vote to close the plan down and finish up paying the bills. The board has around $46,000 in funds and about $59,000 in bills and legal fees.
Some of the monies the counties put into the program will be reimbursed from the federal government.
Meyer said he can not see how the plan can provide better services for senior citizens. And, he said many of the providers have backed down since the beginning.
Pels and Nolte said the budget was skimpy. Sluss thought the new updated numbers were conservative.
In the proposed budget, prepared by Milliman & Robertson, it showed that the counties would not see any money until the fourth and fifth year. After five years into the plan, there would be an estimated $34.88 million in revenues, $34.42 million in spending, leaving an operating gain of about $462,000.
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