Health & Education

Facebook Live event features new healthcare administrator

06.13.2024 Danielle Harrison Facebook Live


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals editor

The Tribe held a Facebook Live event on Wednesday, June 12, to introduce Tribal members and employees to the Tribe’s new third-party health care administrator, Forest County Potawatomi.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has been transitioning away from Redmond-based Shasta Administrative Services as the third-party administrator for its employee and Tribal member health care, and has selected Wisconsin-based Forest County Potawatomi as the new vendor. The change will be effective July 1. 

The process has been going on for nearly two years, dating back to when Shasta began having backlogged claims, some of which were going to collections for nonpayment.

“It’s been a long haul and I’m very pleased we’re at this point now,” Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said. “All of the accommodations demonstrated by (Forest County Potawatomi) in bringing their team here is a good first step I think and I want to thank them for coming.”

A letter will be sent to Tribal members and employees informing them of the change. New insurance cards will be also be sent out. Health coverage itself is not changing as the Tribe is still using First Choice Health as its network, only the claims administrator is different.

During the Facebook Live, approximately 70 people logged in.

Attending the Facebook Live event were Kennedy and Tribal Council Secretary Michael Cherry, and Tribal Council members Jon A. George, Matthew Haller and Brenda Tuomi, Tribal General Manager Angie Blackwell, Executive Director of Health Services Kelly Rowe and Forest County Potawatomi Insurance Director Natalyn Gardner, with Tribal Communications Director Sara Thompson fielding questions asked on Facebook.

“As the transition happens and we move forward, we’ve been working fast and furious and so has Forest County to try to get everything up and running, and they’ve done an exceptional job of trying to put together a very complex plan for us,” Rowe said.  

She added that more information can be found on the Grand Ronde Health & Wellness Center Facebook page as well as the Tribe’s website at, then by clicking on “April 2024 Shasta Update for Members and Employees” tab.

Tribal members who need help with claims until July 1 should call the Health & Wellness Business Office at 503-879-2011. Employees are asked to call Benefits & Risk Manager Tammy Gould at 503-879-2031. Shasta’s voicemail is full and no one is onsite to field calls regarding coverage.

Gardner, who has been onsite in Grand Ronde for the past few days, said she’s enjoyed the opportunity to meet Tribal members and employees.

“It’s been a good week,” she said. “We pride ourselves on our service levels, and that’s answering the phones, responding via email, text and if you call afterhours and have to leave a message, there’s a ticket system and those tickets are worked on the next business day. We have worked closely with the vendors from Shasta so those claims will start coming to us no later than June 20 even though we won’t start to process until July 1.”

Forest County Potawatomi specializes in benefits administration services for Tribal nations, focusing on utilizing federal resources available to Tribes and thus minimizing Tribal dollars spent. The benefits administration includes claim processing for medical, dental, vision, optical and prescription plans.

“We try to do a good job helping other Tribes” Gardner said. “We’ve been providing these services for 20 years and are excited to partner with Grand Ronde.”

On the business side, the Tribe still owns 51% of Shasta, purchased in November 2012 with Hawaii-Western Management Group, which owns 49%. Shasta has sent notice to all clients that they are closing operations. If the company is liquidated, the Tribe’s 51% ownership will end.

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 more than $2 million. Upqwena is owned by the Tribe for the purpose of funding small business enterprises. It is unlikely the Tribe will get all of its money back.

The Facebook Live event closed with questions from the online audience and beaded necklaces gifted to Forest County Potawatomi Insurance employees who have been onsite this week.

The Tribe started holding monthly Facebook Live events after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 as a way to safely keep Tribal members informed about the Tribe and its activities. They are now held on a more irregular schedule and deal with a variety of issues.