Health care

HealthPartners sees biggest jump in medical costs since 2009

HealthPartners saw medical costs increase 5.2 percent during 2015 — the biggest annual jump since 2009, according to numbers presented at the insurer’s annual meeting in St. Paul last week.

Annual costs on a per-person basis are on the rise because health care providers are commanding higher fees, said Kathy Cooney, chief administrative officer with Bloomington-based HealthPartners. Plus, there are more individuals with high-cost conditions that are generating more than $250,000 in claims costs per year.

“The number of high-cost cases continues to increase by double digits,” Cooney said.

A third factor is continued growth in medication costs, particularly drugs called “specialty pharmaceuticals.”

To help keep a lid on pharmacy spending, HealthPartners is taking several steps, Cooney said, including a program for pharmacists to review and “optimize” patient medications.

“We think that is the fastest way to make medications more affordable,” said HealthPartners Chief Executive Mary Brainerd. After describing how federal law currently blocks Medicare from negotiating with drug companies, Brainerd said: “We think this is an unwarranted advantage for drug companies, and that the prices go up as a result.”

Christopher Snowbeck

Business education

Augsburg breaks ground on Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion


The University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota, which built new business schools last decade, have company.

Retired business executive Norm Hagfors and his wife, Evangeline, were the lead, $10 million donors to the now-under-construction Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion, at Augsburg College. The $70 million, integrated-discipline complex will anchor the expanding west end of the Minneapolis college that serves 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students. The 135,000-square-foot building is to open in January of 2018. The science hall to the east will be demolished after that, replaced by an arboretum that will be part of an ongoing campus greening project.

The capital campaign, so far at $54 million, is eight times more than Augsburg has ever raised.

Norm Hagfors, who studied electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, was still a student when he joined founder Earl Bakken in the 1950s as the No. 4 employee at Medtronic, then located in a northeast Minneapolis garage.

Hagfors, who holds several patents, helped transform Medtronic as director of research and manufacturing from an electrical-equipment repair outfit to a global medical device manufacturer.

Hagfors also founded a company that pioneered development of electrical pain-control devices that was sold to Johnson & Johnson. Before his retirement, he was president of another firm and a partner in KLGT-23 TV.

Hagfors, an Augsburg board member, said his interest in science was piqued by a high school science teacher who was an “Auggie.”

The multiyear capital campaign was led by Mike Good, an Augsburg graduate and former All-American wrestler, who retired as CEO of Sotheby’s Realty in 2012 to kick-start a then-stalled campaign.

A third of Augsburg’s undergraduate students are minorities and immigrants.

Neal St. Anthony

Found money

Add another $15,000 or so to Prince’s estate

The estate of the musician Prince has been estimated at $100 million-plus.

Add another $15,509.72.

The late Prince Rogers Nelson and his PRN Music have 17 unclaimed properties valued at $15,509.72 at the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

It appears that most of the items are royalty payments for use of music within the last two years.

Virtually all of the funds arrived within the past two years.

It is likely that the businesses sent the checks to Prince’s address, but for whatever reason they were never cashed, a commerce spokesman said.

After a certain period, state law requires that businesses transfer such unclaimed money to the state to be held in trust for owners or heirs.

“Even Prince, an international superstar, can have unclaimed property,” Commissioner Mike Rothman said. “An estimated one in 20 Minnesotans has missing money that is being held for them. In the past five years, we have returned $157 million to Minnesotans. The Commerce Department is committed to reuniting Minnesotans and their heirs with their missing money. I encourage everyone to check the searchable public database on our website” (

Neal St. Anthony