Essentia Health recognized by Medicare for excellent quality



Essentia Health has earned its best-ever quality score in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. By meeting quality and cost goals in 2019, Essentia saved Medicare $13.2 million, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Essentia scored 95 percent for quality. To score that high, Essentia had to meet performance standards for 23 quality measures across four categories — patient/caregiver experience, care coordination/patient safety, preventive health and at-risk population.

The Medicare Shared Savings Program rewards health care providers for improving the quality of care and population health, as well as lowering health care costs. It focuses on successful and efficient patient outcomes rather than simply growing the volume of services delivered. The $13.2 million of gross savings to Medicare resulted in a shared savings payment of $9.5 million to Essentia, which will be reinvested in patient care, chronic care management and digital technology.

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Compared to other CMS Accountable Care Organizations, work at Essentia resulted in a savings of between $304 and $683 per Medicare member in 2019.

“Moving from volume-driven, fee-for-service payment to value-based payment that rewards better patient outcomes and lower costs is a key strategic initiative at Essentia Health,” said Debbie Welle-Powell, chief population health officer at Essentia. “These results reinforce our commitment to high-quality affordable care for our patients and community. Working together, our patients, providers and CMS all benefit from improving quality, enhancing the patient experience while keeping costs down.”

Key factors in Essentia’s strong performance included: Inpatient expenditures per beneficiary declined in 2019; admissions declined; length of stay at Essentia’s skilled nursing facilities (21-22 days) continued to outperform the ACO average of 24-25 days, and; at Essentia’s skilled nursing facilities, payment per stay declined, whereas the ACO average increased by about 2%.

Essentia has been affiliated with CMS since 2012. In 2016, it entered into a contract that requires a specific amount of savings annually. If that level of savings is not achieved, Essentia is responsible for paying back CMS. Since 2016, however, Essentia has outperformed cost-of-care benchmarks for ACOs.



Unemployment falls to 7.4%

Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to move lower, falling to 7.4% in August, according to numbers released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Minnesota added a seasonally adjusted 40,500 payroll jobs in August, up 1.5% from July. The U.S. gained 1.371 million payroll jobs in August, up 1.0% from July. The national unemployment rate is at 8.4% for August.

“We are continuing to see steady job growth and a decline in unemployment in Minnesota, but it will take some time to replace jobs lost during the pandemic,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “While job growth in Minnesota was stronger in August than in July, growth continues to be uneven across industries and occupations. People in lower income occupations continue to be most impacted by job loss.”

Minnesota unemployment has dropped steadily since reaching a high of 9.9% in May, which was the month with the highest pandemic-related unemployment. In June, Minnesota’s unemployment rate was 8.6% and in July it was 7.6%.

Some groups of Minnesotans have been more affected by unemployment than others during the pandemic. Based on six month moving averages (March to August 2020 data), the unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans is 16.3% in August, up nearly 11 percentage points from 5.4% one year ago, in August 2019. For Hispanic Minnesotans, unemployment was 9.7% in August, up from 3.9% in August 2019. White Minnesotans have an unemployment rate of 6.7% in August, up from 3% one year ago.

Over the month, seasonally adjusted gains in Minnesota were led by government, up 11,000 jobs due to federal Census hiring and local government, followed by leisure and hospitality, up 7,800 jobs or 4.0% entirely in accommodations and food services, education and health services, up 7,100 jobs or 1.4% with gains in both component sectors, and manufacturing, up 5,200 jobs or 1.7% with gains in both durable and nondurable goods.

One supersector, financial activities, lost jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in August from July, down 100 jobs or-0.1%.

Over the year in August, Minnesota shed 219,268 payroll jobs, down 7.3%, while the private sector shed 196,363 jobs, down 7.5%. U.S. over the year job loss stood at 7.0% with the private sector down 7.5% in August.

Three supersectors in Minnesota showed strength compared to the nation: trade, transportation and utilities (retail trade), professional and business services (temp help) and manufacturing (food manufacturing). Retail trade has made a full rebound in jobs to pre-pandemic levels, up 0.5% over the year. Food manufacturing jobs are also up 2.3% over the year.

The number of unemployed workers in Minnesota stood at 231,599 in August, down 4,948 from July and down 71,367 since May, when the number peaked at 302,966. The number of employed people rose 24,766 in August and 114,545 since its trough in May. Minnesota’s labor force participation rate increased to 69.8% in August from 69.2% in July, closing in on 70.2% where it stood in February. The national labor force participation rate is 61.7% in August.

Employment fell in August over the year in all Minnesota metropolitan statistical areas.