Health & Education

Shasta to close, plan participants asked to consider delaying non-essential medical care

04.30.2024 Danielle Harrison Shasta Administrative Services


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde provided an employee update on the status of its health insurance plan on Wednesday, April 24.

“Over the last few months, the Tribe has been working to transition the administration of its health care plans for both Tribal members and employees away from Shasta Administrative Services and over to our new administrator, Forest County Potawatomi,” an all-employee email said. “While we are happy to report that the transition is still progressing as planned, the situation at Shasta has slowly deteriorated and we are actively looking to find ways to support Shasta in its efforts to keep processing claims as it winds down.”

As a precaution and to help minimize issues with claims processing, the Tribe is asking Tribal members and employee plan members to consider the postponement of elective or non-essential services until July 1, when the transition to a new health insurance plan occurs.

According to the American Medical Association, a non-essential service is, “a surgery or procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

“This will help smooth the transition until we begin service with our new administrator,” the email said. “We are working diligently to support the transition in the best way we can and understand that many of you will have questions and concerns. Please be patient with us and with staff as we navigate this challenging situation. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

On the business side, the Tribe still owns 51% of Shasta, purchased in November 2012 with Hawaii-Western Management Group, which owns 49%. The purchased price was not disclosed.

Then-Tribal Economic Development Director Titu Asghar said the purchase made sense in the Tribe’s pursuit of diversifying its non-gaming businesses because the company was already processing claims for the Tribe’s self-funded health plans.

The Tribe has made several loans to Shasta through Upqwena LLC since 2022 to help the company with ongoing operational expenses and alleviating backlogged claims. To date, it has provided nearly $2 million. Upqwena is owned by the Tribe for the purpose of funding small business enterprises. 

Shasta has sent notice to all clients that they will be closing operations. If the company is liquidated, the Tribe’s 51% ownership will end.

Liquidation is the process of bringing a business to an end and distributing its assets, an event that usually happens when a company cannot pay all of its creditors. As operations cease, any remaining assets are used to pay creditors and shareholders, depending on the priority of a claim.

“It is unlikely that the Tribe will get all its money back,” the email said. “The Tribe has made contributions to Upqwena LLC to be loaned to Shasta in an effort to keep operations going and claims processing while the Tribe transitions its plans. We want our plan participants’ claims processed and paid. Any and all contributions have been made in an effort to minimize processing delays and plan disruption.”

Tribal Communications Director Sara Thompson added that it is unknown at this point how much will be available to repay the debt to Upqwena.

“The Tribe’s focus right now is minimizing the impacts of Shasta’s closure on those covered by our plans and making the transition to the new (third-party administrator) as smooth as possible,” she said.

Employees are asked to contact Benefits & Risk Manager Tammy Gould at 503-879-2031 for more information.

Tribal members with questions about Skookum coverage should call Health Benefits Specialist Barbara Steere at 503-879-2487 or Business Office Manager Melody Baker at 503-879-2011.