MANKATO — Under a new contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Health System will now be able to offer health care to state employees at rates similar to those at Mankato Clinic.

The agreement offers members of the State Employee Group Insurance Program lower deductibles and copays when receiving care at Mayo Clinic Health System sites in Belle Plaine, Lake Crystal, Le Sueur, Mankato, Montgomery, New Prague, North Mankato and St. Peter.

It does that by lowering Mayo Clinic Health System from a tier-four cost level to a tier-two cost level, which is the second lowest cost level on a four-tier system used to determine copays and deductibles under the group insurance plan.

At cost-level four, for example, a state employee would pay 25 percent coinsurance for outpatient surgery. At cost-level two they pay a $200 copay, according to a 2015 rate schedule.

That puts rates at Mayo Clinic Health System more in line with Mankato Clinic, which became a cost-level two facility in March 2014. (It was previously at cost-level 3.)

“It allows (state employees) if they take that plan, No. 1 to get care through Mayo Clinic Health System and to access to Mayo Clinic Rochester at a much more favorable cost level,” said Stephen Campbell, regional chief medical quality officer at Mayo Clinic Health System.

It also allow them to access a team-based model of care that Campbell said “we think differentiates us from some of the other providers in the area.”

Not only that, but under a new agreement with insurance provider PreferredOne, Mayo Clinic Health System will go from a tier two to a tier one.

Mankato Clinic is now listed as a tier-two health system under the alternate insurance plan, making Mayo Clinic Health System the best cost level health provider in the Mankato area. (Provided state employees have PreferredOne.)

Mayo Clinic is offering several consumer benefits for state group insurance employees and dependents who select Mayo Clinic Health System as their primary care provider, including:

• A team of health care providers.

• 24/7 access to a nurse and full use of Mayo Clinic Health System nurse triage services.

• Coordinated care. Consumers will receive personalized support in scheduling a follow-up appointment with a primary care provider after an emergency department visit or hospital stay.

• Online access to Mayo Clinic health records.

State employees can enroll in new health insurance plans starting Nov. 1.

Campbell anticipates the area will see a slight shift in the health care market once people start signing up.

“We know we have a product, a Blue Cross product, that makes us more affordable to more patients,” he said. “Of course that's favorable to us and again allows us to showcase higher levels of care.”

State employees that switched to Mankato Clinic when it became a tier-two provider will have the option of switching back. And state employees who have been paying higher rates because they prefer Mayo Clinic will start paying less.

“Many patients face financial barriers to receiving the care they need,” Mayo Clinic Health System CEO and Regional President Greg Kutcher said in a statement. “This new agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield helps Mayo Clinic expand the reach of exceptional, affordable healthcare to the communities we serve.”

To learn more, visit: mayoclinichealthsystem.org/bestchoice. For more on the State Employee Group Insurance Program, visit: http://www.mn.gov/mmb/segip/

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Jessica here, doing some coffee-fueled reporting for the Mankato Free Press. My beat? Education, colleges, LEARNING. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments and story ideas.

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