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May 22, 2020

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced that 12 facilities have been designated as Blue Distinction® Centers+ under the Blue Distinction Spine Surgery program. Blue Distinction Centers® are nationally designated health care facilities that show expertise in delivering high-quality patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations. Only those facilities that first meet nationally established quality and cost measures for Blue Distinction Centers are considered for designation as Blue Distinction Centers+.

Spinal surgeries are among the most common and expensive elective surgeries in the U.S., according to the government-based Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which creates a significant opportunity to improve quality and value within the health care system. For example, there were more than 463,000 spinal fusion operations in the U.S. in 2014, and hospital costs for a fusion procedure average $28,9001, according to AHRQ.

Facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers for Spine Surgery demonstrate expertise in cervical and lumbar fusion, cervical laminectomy and lumbar laminectomy/discectomy procedures, resulting in fewer patient complications and readmissions compared to other facilities. Designated facilities include hospitals (with and without an on-site intensive care Uuit) and Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC). All designated facilities must maintain national accreditation. In addition to meeting these quality thresholds, facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ are, on average, 20 percent more cost-efficient in an episode of care compared to other facilities.

The following facilities have been recognized as Blue Distinction Centers+ for Spine Surgery:


Allen Hospital Waterloo
Genesis Medical CenterDavenport
Mercy HospitalIowa City
Mercy Medical CenterCedar Rapids
MercyOne Des Moines Medical CenterDes Moines
MercyOne North Iowa Medical CenterMason City
St. Luke's Methodist HospitalCedar Rapids
University of Iowa Hospitals and ClinicsIowa City

South Dakota

Avera McKennan Hospital Sioux Falls
Avera Sacred Heart HospitalYankton
Black Hills Surgical HospitalRapid City
Sanford USD Medical CenterSioux Falls

The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program remains a valuable and trusted source for patients seeking quality care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery and transplants.

Find more information about the program and for a complete listing of designated facilities.