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Kandiyohi County reaffirms intent to join PrimeWest Health

Kandiyohi County will stay in the PrimeWest Health consortium for now, but will delay making any financial investment until there's more clarity with the Minnesota Department of Human Services health contract procurement process.

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Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Sept. 4, 2019 Erica Dischino/ West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County reaffirmed its intent Tuesday to join PrimeWest Health, a move that will pave the way for full investment in the consortium at some future point.

Doing so will enable the county to continue to be represented at PrimeWest board meetings while the Minnesota Department of Human Services works through issues that derailed the county's full participation, which was set to take effect in January.

"This is a way that we can have a voice in PrimeWest without a financial investment," said Rollie Nissen, chairman of the County Board of Commissioners.

The County Board adopted a resolution a year ago to join PrimeWest Health, a regional consortium of 24 Minnesota counties for managing publicly funded health programs for low-income populations. The county-based purchasing arrangement in effect allows the member counties to act as a health plan, with the authority to negotiate provider contracts, coordinate health care services and manage risk.

But when the Minnesota Department of Human Services opened the procurement process this summer, it didn't select PrimeWest as the preferred choice in any of the counties involved in the consortium.

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Faced with backlash and the possibility of a lawsuit contesting its recommendation, the state then suspended the procurement process, leaving the counties to continue with their current health plan contracts for Medicaid, MinnesotaCare and the other publicly funded health programs.

"We're kind of in limbo," said Larry Kleindl, Kandiyohi County administrator.

It's unclear when the state might reopen the process for a new round of provider contracts or what the future of county-based purchasing will be. But maintaining a foothold in PrimeWest will be "a great opportunity" for Kandiyohi County to continue to have some say in the group during upcoming months, Kleindl said.

"They still want us at the table," he said Tuesday.

Kandiyohi County was to have made its first payment to PrimeWest by Jan. 1 but that has been delayed, and the resolution adopted Tuesday by the County Board makes payment contingent on the outcome of the state procurement process. The joint powers agreement calls for the county to pay $3.6 million into the PrimeWest capital reserve to underwrite its share of the risk.

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