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MN Community Measurement 

MANKATO — The total cost of care at Minnesota hospitals and clinics slowed in 2017 compared to previous years, but costs varied significantly from one medical group to the next, according to a recent report.

Minnesota Community Measurement’s latest analysis measured care costs for patients with the four largest private health plans in the state. The total costs for their care rose 2 percent last year, compared to 6.1 and 5.6 percent in the previous years.

Per month medical costs for patients ranged from $398 to $1,093 statewide, with average costs at area clinics or hospitals coming in about in the middle of the range.

Mankato Clinic's risk-adjusted cost of care per month totaled $544, slightly above average. CFO Steve Hatkin said managing cost of care for patients is always a focus for the clinic, but he saw encouraging signs in additional metrics included in the report.

“As you go on through there we can see we’re doing a good job keeping our patients healthy,” he said.

The clinic had lower than expected inpatient admissions, emergency room visits and pharmacy use based on its patient population. The first two indicate patients aren’t staying overnight for care as much and aren’t receiving as much costly emergency room care. Overnight stays and emergency room visits drive up costs for patients and clinics alike.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s risk-adjusted cost of care came in at $611. Its inpatient admissions were right around what was expected, but emergency room usage was higher than the projected figure.

Cost differences in the report were evident between Mayo in Mankato and other south-central Minnesota clinics in the health system. Mayo Clinic Health System in Waseca had the highest risk-adjusted cost of care in the region at $674 per patient per month. St. James and New Prague were less expensive. The latter’s $571 cost of care figure shows how big of a range can exist between even nearby facilities.

“Mayo Clinic Health System continues to take significant steps to manage cost of care, including improving access by connecting patients with the right level of care, when and where they need it, and reducing costs with careful management of resources and by identifying the best person on the care team to serve the patient’s needs,” the health system commented in a statement.

The report also looked at costs for specific procedures at clinics and hospitals. An ankle X-ray exam at Mankato Clinic or Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s clinic, for instance, costed $80 and $88 on average. The procedure at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s hospital rose to $283, although it wasn’t far out of line for the average hospital cost for the exam.

The biggest variation among specific exam costs was in the price for a lower extremity MRI without contrast. Mankato Clinic’s average cost for the procedure was $195, while Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato’s was $2,903.

The Mayo Clinic Health System statement didn’t specifically address the cost difference, instead saying it takes the report seriously.

“While total cost of care measurement tools such as Minnesota Community Measurement are still in their infancy and have methodological issues to address, we take this information seriously and will continue our work to provide care for our patients as safely, effectively and affordably as possible,” the statement read.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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