Commissioners dispute DHS denial of South Country managed care contract

NEW ULM — Brown County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution objecting to the actions of Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and authorized a request of mediation.

The commissioner’s resolution specifically objected to DHS selection of participating health plans as it denies Brown County the statutory right to provide health care services under the County-based purchasing authority found in the state statute.

On June 25, the county passed a resolution supporting a recommendation from Human Services and Public Health approving South Country Health Alliance (SCHA) as the Brown County’s Managed Care Organization (MCO). 

In July, DHS informed SCHA it would not be offered the opportunity to contract for either Families & Children and Seniors in any of the member counties.

DHS has not provided a formal written reason for denying SCHA an opportunity to contract. In verbal conversation, DHS alleged SCHA failed a “readiness review.

“I am shocked by DHS lack of transparency,” Commissioner Dean Simonsen said.

He said counties are trying to do what is best for citizens in terms of health care and it was surprising that DHS could block options.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl agreed, saying DHS should not be allowed to regulate law by administrative finagling.

DHS attempted to deny SCHA the opportunity to contract with counties in 2015. SCHA filed a lawsuit against DHS and requested mediation resulting in a reversal of the decision.

The resolution approved by the commissioners cites the county’s objection to DHS selection of participating health plans for Brown County and DHS’s decision to reject SCHA proposals to provide healthcare services and will request mediation with DHS on behalf of Brown County and SCHA. 


Commissioners also approved:

• Appointing Kelly Hotovec as Brown County Deputy Registrar and Driver’s License Agent.

On July 19, the previous License Bureau Supervisor resigned and the Department of Public Safety must appoint a new deputy. 

The Commissioner of Public Safety may appoint the County Auditor to fill this position, but Auditor-Treasurer Jean Prochniak said it made more sense to appoint Hotovec now rather than go through the process at a later time.

The license bureau will continue to work under the Brown County Auditor-Treasurer (A-T) department and handle tax payments and other license functions at the North Franklin Street location. The A-T office is taking steps to transition more staff to the license center to assist customers.

• A driver exam station lease extension effective Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2022, for the leased premises at 1900 N. Franklin St. as a driver exam station and 1901 North Jefferson as a motorcycle skill test course.

The license bureau staff and highway staff noted the working relationship with state license examiners has been good, according to the board request. Rental payments are placed in the building fund for county building repair expenses to be determined by county commissioners as needed.

The rent payment is $230 per month for the first year, $235 in the second year and $240 a month in the third year. 

• Authorizing ISG Engineering to complete a feasibility study on Judicial Ditch 5 B&R. At a redetermination of benefits meeting July 24 in Springfield, landowners expressed concern over the condition of their system and the need for improvement.

Seven landowners signed a petition at the meeting to authorize a feasibility study for county board consideration. ISG will be contacted to create a report for landowners.

The commissioners unanimously approved the study. Commissioner Jeff Veerkamp said the majority of the landowners wanted this done because the ditch no longer works for them. 

County Engineer Wayne Stevens said the commission has approved studies with even fewer landowners making the request.

The cost of the study will range from $1,500 to $3,000.

• A quote to improve the Brown County Highway Department shop fuel station. The station has two 10,000 gallon tanks.

Rainwater has been getting into the sumps, according to the request. Six sumps need to be raised to prevent surface water from getting into them.

Surface water is getting into the spill bucket, tank monitor manway and submersible sump pump manway during large rains. This is a concern because it could allow water to get into fuel tanks and it is a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) rules concern.

Quotes to raise the sumps are $10,787 from Westmore and $8,290 from Dockendorf Equipment. The highway department recommended the low quote.

• A funding split for the 2020 CSAH 13 (Center Street) project from Camels Back Road to Broadway. A mill and overlay project with ADA improvements, curb and gutter repair as needed and a traffic signal update, is shown in the 10-year plan.

The project uses regular state aid construction funds instead of municipal state aid construction funds because New Ulm is a city with a population over 5,000. 

The traffic light at Payne and Center would be included in the ADA improvements. Stevens said the improvements would likely include push buttons for crossing and sounds for visually impaired.

• Accepting a $10,000 grant from the Fiscal Year 2020 County Veteran Service Office (CVSO) Operational Enhancement Grant.

The Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs is authorized to provide grants of $7,500. Counties with a veteran population between 1,000 and 3,000 receive an additional $2,500. Brown County’s veteran population is 1,938.