ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - More than 20 Somali-American health care providers are accusing health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota of a “bait and switch” after the company canceled their contracts in recent months.
“We lost all of our investment and not only that you lose your credibility because people assume you committed some sort of fraud to lose your contract, so people question you,” Khadija Ali, owner of one the providers impacted, said.
Providers and activists gathered at the State Capitol on Friday, alleging the cancelation of contracts has cost over 500 jobs.
According to Blue Cross, Minnesota's “Blue Plus” program is transitioning to a new model that limits the number of companies that would provide transportation and services for their Minnesota members.
But the companies affected say they were solicited, their members recruited and then their contracts canceled.
“When the suspension happened I was struggling even paying my bills,” said driver Ahmed Farah, who lost his job.
Blue Cross told Fox 9 all companies were allowed to re-apply under the new program.
“Blue Plus reviewed all of the transportation companies that participated and chose providers that were able to support a higher volume of rides, provide the needed level of technology capabilities and language options, and have the ability to meet our members’ needs at any given time," Blue Cross said in a statement.
Full statement from Blue Cross Blue Sheild of Minnesota
“In 2016, Blue Plus announced it was transitioning to a new business model where a limited number of companies would provide the majority of the rides for our Minnesota Health Care Program members. Immediately following our announcement, we heard concerns from some companies about impacts to their business. Therefore, to increase clarity and transparency, Blue Plus invited contracted common carrier transportation providers to participate in a Request for Proposal (RFP).
Blue Plus communicated with all drivers about the challenging but necessary changes to better manage the escalating costs of non-emergency medical transportation services. Additionally, we had several face-to-face meetings with representatives of the Minority Drivers Association and hosted Q&A sessions with those participating in the RFP in an effort to better understand and discuss their concerns.
As part of the RFP selection process, Blue Plus reviewed all of the transportation companies that participated and chose providers that were able to support a higher volume of rides, provide the needed level of technology capabilities and language options, and have the ability to meet our members’ needs at any given time. Nearly all of the transportation companies that we identified as high-volume vendors represented a range of cultural backgrounds, including owners and operators from the Somali, Hmong, Russian, Egyptian, Ukrainian and Persian communities.
As a health company with an expanding and diverse membership, Blue Plus is committed to addressing culturally specific needs in our business practices. In the vast majority of cases, this change was about the challenging but necessary changes to better manage the escalating costs of non-emergency medical transportation services. While not everyone will agree with the approach or ultimately the final outcome, our goal was to make this a genuine effort on the part of Blue Plus to be more
transparent and meet the needs of our members and communities we serve.”
Full statement from Department of Human Services
“DHS is aware of the changes to the network for Blue Plus. It’s the department’s expectation that the managed care organizations regularly review their networks to ensure these services meet the needs of the clients and programs under Medicaid. We also expect every health plan to act ethically and maintain the highest level of integrity when contracting for Medicaid services. DHS maintains regulatory oversight over these networks and if these standards are not met, the department will take swift action.”