When last we chatted there were some pretty pressing issues that had surfaced related to our advocacy work. Dr. David Feinwachs was in the news as a staunch supporter of healthcare spending transparency and had offered testimony in a committee setting. Since that time Feinwachs has again been called on for his expert testimony in another committee hearing, and has been in great demand at healthcare educational forums and gatherings around the state. It’s not an understatement to say that fiscal responsibility is foremost on the minds of most all members of the Minnesota legislature and, if it’s not, it should be. That’s what makes the accountability issue even more crucial to push for and one to watch as we gauge the personal sincerity of our elected representatives in St. Paul.
The focus of Seven County and our GMHCC members has always been about improving healthcare access, quality and affordability. Research and history has shown that there is significant waste that has been allowed to continue unchecked in the state funded and HMO delivered healthcare programs. Current estimates, using historical calculations, indicate that there is at least $150 million dollars per year in tax dollars spent on healthcare that are not subject to common sense review. This does not make good fiscal sense and it does not make for good stewardship of dwindling resources. You wouldn’t allow this to happen in your home budget by having a contractor charge you anywhere from 10-13% extra on your bill without telling you what it was for. Why this is allowed to continue is almost beyond belief, especially when legislators trumpet the fact that they are the watchdogs of our tax dollars.
The good news is that some legislative responses to this lack of accountability have surfaced, finally. There are currently two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, that are aimed at answering the question(s) of “…where DO our healthcare tax dollars go?” A telling piece will be what kind of broad based interest and support these bills will garner in the legislature. It will be a litmus test for who “talks about” reform and who is actually willing to “do something” about it. Keep your eyes open for how involved or committed your reps are during this process.
Further news on the healthcare front involves our meeting with newly appointed Minnesota Dept. of Health (MDH) commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger and Assistant Ellen Benavides. GMHCC reps, including six (6) from Seven County, met for over an hour with the MDH reps. It was a very open and frank discussion of the state of healthcare in Minnesota and an exchange of ideas about how to improve the system. Our CBP (County Based Purchasing) efforts really caught the attention of the commissioners. They asked for details about our involvement and how they might help in making the application process simpler and smoother for counties that wish to either form new CBP groups or join existing CBP organizations. As a background story to the application process, three years ago a group had been ready to move ahead with forming a new CBP group in the Rochester area and had done all of the necessary groundwork and received near unanimous favorable marks from everyone during the application process. All was a “go” until it reached the governor’s desk where it was vetoed and tossed aside. Nearly two years of bipartisan work and planning went for naught. To say it was disappointing to those who put in the work doesn’t do it justice… it was devastating. The process needs to be changed and simplified.
GMHCC currently has a $40K grant to do education and outreach in promoting CBP around the state and is currently focusing efforts in central Minnesota in and around St. Cloud. The goal is to make sure that the process becomes simpler and less political for groups to be part of a CBP because of the physical value they provide to the people they serve, and to the fiscal health of the counties who make use of it. It is the ultimate win-win proposition in healthcare.
On the healthcare horizon is an upcoming meeting with MN Dept. of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson in a joint meeting that will also include Dr. Ed Ehlinger (MDH Commissioner). GMHCC will be well represented as will Seven County at that meeting. A full report on the outcome of the meeting will be ready for the next issue of ECHOES.
Finally, there has been a lot of talk about revolts and insurrection and it’s become an unavoidable everyday conversation. There is a message in the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and now in Libya, and on the home front a massive demonstration in Wisconsin, as well as slightly smaller ones in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Is it the wave of things to come? It should be a given that anytime a group of people feels ignored, overlooked, abused or taken for granted, sooner or later there will be a backlash. It’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.” I think, to the amazement of most people in this country, the tremendous rebellion and overthrow of the Egyptian government was done in a manner more civil than could possibly be imagined, especially given the scope (millions of people) of the protest. Strange as it may be to most, there is something that we can learn from how that change was accomplished. Civility and orderly rebellion can win out and restore sanity and fairness to unfair systems. Case made.
Peace… and good, affordable, accessible healthcare to all!
Answer to QUIZ Question from February ECHOES: The president in 1965 was LBJ and the response to his State of the Union address was co-delivered by Senator Everett Dirksen (IL) and Representative Gerald Ford (MI).