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EAGAN, MN-Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has called on the Citizens League, a nonprofit research organization based in St. Paul, to study the issue and make recommendations on proposed hospital expansions.

The health insurer recently researched the topic of growth patterns of the state’s hospitals and related facilities, with particular attention to the specialty care centers that are being built. The study–”Hospital Expansion in Minnesota: Is Growth Worth the Cost?”–inventoried expansion plans since 2002 and benchmarked Minnesota hospitals against national averages.

The study concludes that more than a third of the state’s 148 hospitals are in the midst of expansion projects or have one in development. All together, these projects are expected to total some $1.57 billion in new development–although that total is closer to $1.37 billion, since it includes all three hospital operators vying to build in Maple Grove. The majority of expansion projects are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

“Metropolitan hospital facilities are continuing to expand and build at a fast pace, specially for specialties like cardiac care,” says Michael Morrow, senior vice president of business development and network management for Blue Cross.

Much of the expansion occurs in a few specialties, for which Minnesota already exceeds the national average, the report says. For example, Minnesota has 28% more cardiac intensive care beds than the national average and yet 40% fewer psychiatric beds than the national average.

“We can make better informed decisions about the kind of hospital care we build so that it will result in higher quality, lower prices and better access,” Morrow says. “But it will take all of us working together for the benefit everyone.”

Blue Cross has agreed to help finance the Citizens League review, which is expected to be ready for consideration in next year’s Minnesota Legislature session.

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