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Christopher Snowbeck

Reporter | Business
Chris has covered health care stories at four different daily newspapers since 1994. His work at the Star Tribune focuses on health insurers, hospitals and the state's MNsure health insurance exchange. Previously, he worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Va., and the Indianapolis News.
Recent content from Christopher Snowbeck
Getting a faster go-ahead on medications

Getting a faster go-ahead on medications

Fairview Health Services has shortened the time patients must wait to receive approval for drugs subject to 'prior authorization' requirements from health insurers

Industry study finds income lags for Minnesota's rural hospitals

Hospital trade group says rural medical centers struggle due to low payment rates from government insurance programs.
Study finds GOP health bill shifts costs to older, poorer buyers

Study finds GOP health bill shifts costs to older, poorer buyers

The Kaiser study projects significant increases for older people in rural Minnesota and modest savings for some younger people.
TV ads bumped up ACA signups, U study finds

TV ads bumped up ACA signups, U study finds

U researchers declined to cite cause-and-effect, but said TV campaign, enrollments overlapped.

Feds investigate insurers' Medicare billing for possible fraud

The disclosure came in a whistleblower case against Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.
Minn. hospitals don't back GOP health care replacement bill

Minn. hospitals don't back GOP health care replacement bill

The trade groups for hospitals, doctors and insurers are concerned by the potential loss of health insurance coverage.
Medica sues Minnesota DHS over public insurance contract

Medica sues Minnesota DHS over public insurance contract

The HMO said it was offered a worse deal than other providers.
New Medica chief charts course in rough waters

New Medica chief charts course in rough waters

Telling Medica's story in the individual market is just one of the challenges facing John Naylor, the new chief executive.
Fairview and UCare won't merge after all

Fairview and UCare won't merge after all

Deal endured delays since the agreement in April.
Mayo spending $217 million on construction in Rochester

Mayo spending $217 million on construction in Rochester

The clinic plans to expand and renovate spaces at its St. Marys campus about 1 mile west of Mayo's main site in downtown Rochester.
Children's cancels Blue Cross contract, affecting 70,000

Children's cancels Blue Cross contract, affecting 70,000

Children's Minnesota ends Blue Cross contract in a move that could affect 70K patients.

MNsure role might shrink with ACA repeal

The GOP proposal calls for making tax credits available to consumers outside the exchange.
Minnesotans who study health care repeal plans see huge changes

Minnesotans who study health care repeal plans see huge changes

Republican-led bill would cause wrenching cutbacks but could enhance market forces.

Minnesota hospitals report increased community benefit spending

A new report on 2015 expenses found significant growth in hospital costs for treating Medicaid patients.
HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd to retire after 15 years at the helm

HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd to retire after 15 years at the helm

Health care nonprofit says that longtime executive Mary Brainerd will be succeeded by Andrea Walsh.

Feds issue $2.5 million fine against UnitedHealthcare

Federal audit indicates prescription plans did not align with Medicare rules, boosting out-of-pocket costs.
UCare hiring for a comeback

UCare hiring for a comeback

Back big in the market, insurer expects to receive 150,000 new subscribers with Medicaid, MinnesotaCare coverage.

Mayo earnings hit by Medicaid, labor costs

Despite headwinds, the workforce still managed to grow by 5 percent.
They're allowed in Minn. again, but for-profit HMOs face uphill climb

They're allowed in Minn. again, but for-profit HMOs face uphill climb

The Legislature reversed a statute from the 1970s to try to boost competition.

Mayo Clinic investing $70 million in Mankato hospital

Construction is expected to begin later this year on expansion of the hospital's surgical suite.

MNsure courts last-minute health plan shoppers

Some in individual market can still enroll by March 1.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota cutting 50 jobs

About half the layoffs stem from outsourcing behavioral health services.
Whistleblower suit alleges UnitedHealth defrauded Medicare

Whistleblower suit alleges UnitedHealth defrauded Medicare

A whistleblower lawsuit alleges that UnitedHealth Group's data analytics division helped the Minnetonka-based insurer and other health plans defraud the federal Medicare program by "upcoding" risk adjustment scores to boost payment rates.
UCare making big comeback in public health insurance programs

UCare making big comeback in public health insurance programs

The HMO will pick up most of the counties that Minnetonka-based Medica will vacate this spring.
Growth in cost of medicine moderated in 2016, study finds

Growth in cost of medicine moderated in 2016, study finds

The annual rate of overall increase slowed even as lawmakers railed against price hikes on EpiPens.
Proposed sign-up limits for health insurance worry MNsure board

Proposed sign-up limits for health insurance worry MNsure board

The Trump administration says the change could stabilize the insurance market, but two MNsure board members voiced concerns.
That's a wrap: New gowns make their way into local hospitals

That's a wrap: New gowns make their way into local hospitals

Methodist Hospital joins medical centers launching improved attire for patients.
The future after Obamacare? Look to Minnesota's past

The future after Obamacare? Look to Minnesota's past

The state's experience with high-risk pools shows that you can cover thousands of people who are denied coverage by private insurers — but that it isn't cheap for the public or the patients.

Health insurers say they need insurance protection from big claims

A tiny fraction of patients in the individual market rack up 40% of all medical bills.

Despite uptick at MNsure, Minnesota's individual market declines 30 percent

Insurers called the decline alarming and warned that it could force further premium increases.

Audit finds errors remain in Minnesota's public insurance programs

Audit finds eligibility problems in system result in a continued high rate of overpayments.

Hospitals balk at tight networks in rural parts of Minnesota

Some medical centers cry foul about loss of local patients to distant options.
Medica's return to individual market means second option for 62 Minnesota counties

Medica's return to individual market means second option for 62 Minnesota counties

The insurer had reached cap but now has about 7,000 slots to sell.

Insurers extend sign-up deadline in Minnesota's individual market

Feb. 8 date allows consumers to take advantage of new state rebates for 2017 coverage.
State hopes '25 percent off sale' will draw health plan shoppers

State hopes '25 percent off sale' will draw health plan shoppers

Lawmakers this week provided the 25 percent premium rebates to certain people buying through the state's individual market.
MNsure says most tax forms have been sent out

MNsure says most tax forms have been sent out

Officials with the state exchange expect the documents to be on time.
Why the Allina-Aetna partnership could shake up insurance market

Why the Allina-Aetna partnership could shake up insurance market

The partnership shows big hospitals are dabbling in the health plan business.
Allina Health and Aetna to launch insurance company in Minnesota

Allina Health and Aetna to launch insurance company in Minnesota

For-profit firm is latest in Minnesota to combine a hospital and clinics operator with an insurer.
UnitedHealth sees potential in 'next phase' of health reform

UnitedHealth sees potential in 'next phase' of health reform

CEO Hemsley says insurer has "no better sense than anyone else" about what is coming.

Medica eliminates 100 jobs linked to dropped state contract

The move comes about six weeks after Medica decided to not renew a large HMO contract in public insurance programs.
Insurers puzzle over health law limbo

Insurers puzzle over health law limbo

Insurers watch and worry as Congress eagerly makes first moves to repeal ACA.
MNsure reports record enrollment of 100,000-plus

MNsure reports record enrollment of 100,000-plus

Sign-ups rise about 20 percent from last year with three weeks left to enroll.
Optum buying surgery center group for $2.3 billion

Optum buying surgery center group for $2.3 billion

With the deal, the UnitedHealth Group division greatly expands outpatient surgery business.

Feds say Abbott Northwestern wrongly billed Medicare for $8M

The government report flags Medicare payments to the hospital for rehabilitation services.
Longtime Medica CEO retiring; insider to assume top post

Longtime Medica CEO retiring; insider to assume top post

David Tilford has led the health insurer since it became an independent company in 2001.

Fairview merger adds Grand Rapids hospital

The Minneapolis-based health system now operates two hospitals on the Iron Range.
Obituary: Alix Gabrielle Kowler fled the Holocaust, shared the story

Obituary: Alix Gabrielle Kowler fled the Holocaust, shared the story

Alix Kowler’s father believed allegiance to his native Austria would protect his family as anti-Semitism spread in the 1930s. This faith was shaken in November…
State officials ask FBI to review alleged 'robocall' attack against MNsure

State officials ask FBI to review alleged 'robocall' attack against MNsure

Dayton blames automated calls for clogged exchange.

100,000 people in Minnesota can still enroll in January health coverage

"Special enrollment" is available to those with individual market plans being terminated for '17.
MNsure sign-ups double last year's pace

MNsure sign-ups double last year's pace

Tax credits offered only through the exchange likely played a key role.
Hospitals face uncertain prognosis with Affordable Care Act up in the air

Hospitals face uncertain prognosis with Affordable Care Act up in the air

The promised repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act is raising questions among hospital systems in Minnesota.
Fairview, Blue Cross reach agreement on contract, retaining care for 250,000

Fairview, Blue Cross reach agreement on contract, retaining care for 250,000

The agreement ends uncertainty for patients about whether they'd need to switch doctors or pay more to visit the physicians they know.

More shoppers going to MNsure as deadline approaches

Exchange sees uptick in response to big rate jumps for 2017; others are leaving the troubled individual market.
Report: 744,000 Minnesotans could be affected by ACA change

Report: 744,000 Minnesotans could be affected by ACA change

Report estimates that they have health problems that could prevent coverage.

Start-up Harken Health to exit exchanges in Atlanta, Chicago as part of market shift

Harken Health, the start-up health insurer from UnitedHealthcare, is shifting focus after suffering big losses in the individual market.
Vendors pitch MNsure on website upgrades

Vendors pitch MNsure on website upgrades

Amid uncertainty, the state health insurance exchange wants to improve the online experience for shoppers.
Blue Cross, Fairview dispute snags 45,000 in Medicare

Blue Cross, Fairview dispute snags 45,000 in Medicare

Such contract disputes often get resolved at the 11th hour, but open enrollment for Medicare beneficiaries ends Wednesday, and confused patients are scrambling.

Medica's exit from state's public health programs raises tough questions

The HMO says it won't be an option for more than 300,000 in state public programs beginning in May.

Minnesota Medicaid shake-up to affect 311,000

The move would impact health insurance coverage for more than 310,000 enrollees.
MNsure says average tax credit for coverage has tripled

MNsure says average tax credit for coverage has tripled

The enhanced subsidies for 2017 are offsetting steep premium hikes for many whose incomes are low enough to qualify for help.
Federal audit seeks $1.2 million repayment from MNsure

Federal audit seeks $1.2 million repayment from MNsure

The state's health insurance exchange disputed the federal auditors' recommendation.
Using a ladder any time soon? Take it easy

Using a ladder any time soon? Take it easy

ER doctors say amateur climbers are the biggest risk pool.
MNsure mailed 2,300 notices with incorrect health plan info

MNsure mailed 2,300 notices with incorrect health plan info

The notices should have listed consumers' health plan choice for next year, state officials said, but instead listed this year's selections due to a problem with computer coding.
Medicaid HMOs post losses

Medicaid HMOs post losses

The partial-year results are a reversal from big profits in the early years of the Affordable Care Act.
For Minnesotans using Obamacare, election brought only uncertainty

For Minnesotans using Obamacare, election brought only uncertainty

Any changes under President Trump and a GOP Congress will affect 200,000 Minnesotans who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
MNsure says enrollment for health plans up big so far

MNsure says enrollment for health plans up big so far

More than 23,000 people have signed up for private plans, compared with less than 7,000 at this point last year.
Feds deny UnitedHealthcare's protest on military contracts

Feds deny UnitedHealthcare's protest on military contracts

Firm objected to being bypassed over two contracts worth $58 billion.
Medica already hits health plan enrollment cap for 2017

Medica already hits health plan enrollment cap for 2017

People who buy health insurance on their own lost a health plan option on Friday as regulators announced that Minnetonka-based Medica has hit an enrollment cap for 2017.
Murky future for MNsure following GOP election triumph

Murky future for MNsure following GOP election triumph

The GOP, now in full control of the Legislature, has talked of scrapping the state exchange set up for the Affordable Care Act.

Non-pharmacy drugs drive big spending, state report finds

The problem is of importance to large employers in Minnesota struggling with worker plans.

Blue Cross, Fairview dispute could snag 170,000 patients

Blue Cross, Fairview health systems contract fight could affect 170,000 customers.
Tunnels and a beer-soaked history mark Hazelden expansion in St. Paul

Tunnels and a beer-soaked history mark Hazelden expansion in St. Paul

The caves beneath the old William Banholzer House — a structure that Hazelden has used since the 1950s — have affected life on the surface for decades.
MNsure reports brisk enrollment levels, shorter wait times

MNsure reports brisk enrollment levels, shorter wait times

More than 10,000 Minnesotans have enrolled this week in what appears to be a rush to buy coverage before plans hit enrollment limits.
State officials say MNsure was hit with unusual call volume

State officials say MNsure was hit with unusual call volume

Despite call center problems, more than 8,700 people have signed up for coverage over a two-day period.
Gov. Dayton says MNsure phone lines sabotaged by robocalls

Gov. Dayton says MNsure phone lines sabotaged by robocalls

State officials also say 70 of the state's websites have been experiencing outages Tuesday.
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