Highlight on Minnesota: Blue Cross, medical cannabis, and baby chickens

BCBS customers feeling blue about next year

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS) has given up the ghost and will not sell health plans to individuals and families next year. The company projected a loss of over $500 million in the individual market over three years, based on current trends, with a loss of $265 million reported in 2015. Premium revenue for individual plans did not come close to supporting claims. Individual market plans will still be available on a limited basis through Blue Plus HMO from the insurer’s parent company, which currently has about 13,000 members. Blue Plus covers a very small share of the market, considering that 103,000 state residents who have purchased BCBS coverage will have to go back to the drawing board during the next open enrollment period.

The company stated that it would be notifying each member, and committed to assisting all customers in transitioning to new coverage. The company also indicated its intent to continue working with state leadership to stabilize the market and find workable solutions. A spokesperson for MNsure, the state exchange, said about 20,000 of the soon to be displaced members purchased their BCBS plans on the exchange. The majority of these customers qualified for tax credits to make premiums more affordable, and they are encouraged to come back to MNsure to shop for coverage in order to maintain financial assistance.

New condition category for medical cannabis

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program will celebrate its first birthday by adding a new condition to its eligibility list: intractable pain. This type of chronic pain stems from a cause that cannot be removed and has resisted normal pain management methods, or those methods have caused intolerable side effects. Patients must be certified on the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) website by a provider, then registered to receive medical cannabis at one of eight state treatment centers. Medical cannabis is provided either in a pill or a liquid form.

Hands off the cute baby chicks

Young poultry may be more dangerous than they first appear. The MDH reports that nine cases of salmonella infections occurring from late April through mid-June of this year have been linked to baby chickens and other poultry (ducks, turkeys, or pheasants, specifically). Eight of the nine people who fell ill purchased young poultry this spring at local feed stores. The cases struck a wide range of ages, from 2 months to 66 years.

Birds that appear clean and healthy may have enough bacteria on their feet or feathers to infect a human. The MDH warns that young children, who are likely to be attracted to the baby birds, are at an increased risk for contracting salmonella and are also more likely to experience complications. Recommended precautions include thoroughly washing hands after contact with poultry, not allowing children under 5 years old to handle poultry, supervising older children closely, keeping food and drinks away from poultry, and avoiding contact with the face.