Loss of health plan riles some

Lynne Kozarek

Beginning the 1st of January, 1,500 low-income Minneapolis residents, including some University employees, will lose their current pre-paid health care plan because a University-run clinic is not in compliance with state law.
The Community University Health Care Clinic, located on Bloomington Avenue in south Minneapolis, provides a pre-paid health plan in which low-income patients pay a fee each month to receive complete hospital and medical coverage.
Dr. Amos Deinard, the clinic’s director, contacted the Department of Health on the advice of the University’s legal counsel earlier this year. The health department found that the plan provides complete coverage and behaves like a medical insurance provider. Therefore, it is not in compliance with state insurance law.
“It doesn’t matter how many people are on the plan,” Deinard said. “What is germane is that it was considered risk-taking.”
Deinard sent a letter to all of the patients covered by the plan, informing them that after Jan. 1 the service would not be offered.
“We can continue to care for them here,” he said. “We will provide the same sliding-scale payment plan that many people of the same social and economic mix have.”
A sliding-scale payment system is common at clinics serving low-income populations. The scale determines the fee for medical services based on patient income.
Cynthia Amendt, an employee at both the University’s art department and bookstore, uses the clinic’s pre-payment plan.
“What are people like myself going to do?” she asked. “I think we’re just expected to die in the gutter.”
Amendt said she felt the plan is being revoked in part because of the merger of the University Hospital with Fairview Health Systems. The merger is set to take place on Jan. 1, 1997.
“(The clinic) decided to dump us in January, seemingly so as not to inconvenience Fairview,” Amendt said.
Fairview spokesperson Jean Tracy said the merger has nothing to do with the cancellation of the plan.
“(The clinic) is not a part of the University-Fairview affiliation,” Tracy said. “There isn’t a connection to the merger.”
The clinic is currently run by the University Hospital, but when the merger is completed the Academic Health Center will take over, said Dr. Frank Cerra, provost of the health center. The Academic Health Center is comprised of the University Hospital and seven health care schools.
Deinard agreed that the revocation of the plan had nothing to do with the merger.
“The date (of revocation) happens to be the date that the University Hospital ceases to exist,” Deinard said.