Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, North Memorial Health launch joint primary care venture 

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and North Memorial Health have announced a new primary care initiative. (Pixabay)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and North Memorial Health are teaming up for a joint primary care venture. 

The insurer and health system announced the venture, which includes 20 clinics across the Twin Cities, this week. The primary care clinics will operate separately from both existing companies, with its own CEO and board of directors, under the North Memorial Health brand. 

Craig Samitt, M.D., CEO of Blue Cross, told FierceHealthcare that the venture was born because the leaders of both shared the same “impatient” desire for change in healthcare. 

“The point of the joint venture, in many respects, was to forge something shoulder-to-shoulder that was going to change the paradigm,” Samitt said.

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Blue Cross will have a 49% stake in the company, and North Memorial will have a 51% stake. North Memorial’s chief ambulatory officer, Jennifer Close, has been tapped to lead the joint venture as its CEO. 

A central goal of the new company is to reduce healthcare costs by 20% over the next five years, through a focus on value-based payments, according to the announcement. Samitt said that by joining forces financially for these arrangements, “the patient wins” at the end of the day. 

That goal is why it was crucial for this initiative to be a joint one, instead of a merger or acquisition on either side, he said. A venture with equal stakes creates joint accountability and pivots away from making the changes about simply building scale or driving profit growth, Samitt said. 

“This is not seeking to create something bigger, with the thought that ‘bigger is better,’” Samitt said. “It’s coming up with something transformative, with the notion that ‘better is better.’” 

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Samitt noted that healthcare’s ongoing ‘merger-mania’ hasn’t necessarily lived up to the promises of lower costs and better outcomes, either. 

In addition, Samitt said that neither Blue Cross nor North Memorial view the initiative as an exclusive agreement. Instead, they’ll be working to actively recruit additional to enter the payment arrangements and work alongside them to create an “epicenter” of care improvement. 

“There’s plenty of room under the tent for us to reinvent healthcare from the inside out,” he said. “North and Blue Cross are not going to be able to do it alone.”