Echoes – August/September 2011

GMHCC Members Meet With Commerce Commissioner

Mike Rothman

Mike Rothman

A group of people representing GMHCC (Greater Minnesota Health Care Coalition) had an opportunity to meet with MN Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and his Assistant Commissioner Jaki Gardner.

The goal of the group is to open lines of communication with the Commerce Department as this group oversees and has regulatory power over the Minnesota Insurance industry.  With healthcare reform at the top of GMHCC’s priority list over the years, and with the accountability issue leading the list, leaders felt that this communication bridge was a critical link to establish.

Those who met with Rothman and Gardner included Fran Levings-Baker (Seven County President), Charlotte Fisher (Central Senior Federation President), Vicki Sanville (N.E. Citizens Federation President), and Buddy Robinson (staff director of N.E. and GMHCC co-coordinator).

The meeting was termed as being “very productive” and with a good exchange of information and issue positions by both parties.  Rothman said that the accountability issue, related to state-financed and privately-administered healthcare service, is at the forefront of  items to be scrutinized for change.

Rothman also indicated that the appropriateness of HMOs’ reserve levels is very clearly on his agenda.  “I have the same questions as you do, and I want answers” he said in response to inquiries on the topic.

He did not have an opinion of what a proper upper limit should be (for reserves), butis interested in the notion that it is in need of review.

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Commerce Department Focused On Insurance Exchange

Statement from Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman  -  Aug. 16, 2011

 ST. PAUL, MN Last week, Governor Mark Dayton announced the state received a $4.2 million grant to further the planning and establishment of a Minnesota-made health insurance exchange. The following is a statement from Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman concerning ongoing collaborative efforts to establish a Minnesota-made health insurance exchange that will drive market competition and reduce health care costs for Minnesota consumers and businesses:

The Administration is focused on using this grant to thoughtfully and effectively prepare the infrastructure necessary for a Minnesota-made exchange built by Minnesotans, for Minnesotans. We are focused on ensuring that exchange meets the unique needs of Minnesota’s consumers, businesses, and economy while driving market competition and reducing health care costs for Minnesotans.

In preparing for an exchange, we will actively seek constructive public input from all parties. We need all hands on deck – consumers, employers, legislators, insurers, agents, navigators, and health care providers – to help design an exchange that supports Minnesota’s unique health care system and demonstrates again why Minnesota leads the nation in health care innovation.

It is urgent for Minnesota to act to design and develop an exchange. Our window of opportunity to craft and implement a Minnesota-made solution is right now. States have only until January 1, 2013 to create the infrastructure for their own exchanges, which would be available to consumers in 2014.

A request for use of exchange establishment grant funds was included and authorized as part of Governor Dayton’s biennial budget request to the 2011 Minnesota Legislature for the Department of Commerce.

The Administration informed lawmakers of the grant Minnesota received last week. We are committed to a constructive, collaborative process with all stakeholders to design and develop an exchange that best serves Minnesotans. We are always open to discussions with the legislature and stakeholders.  ~

Michael Rothman, MN Commerce Commissioner

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Medicaid Waiver Renewed WITH Changes

A broad effort among allies like GMHCC, MUHCC and TAMN to help bring transparency and accountability to Minnesota’s HMOs was not entirely successful, although there were some measurable victories.

On June 30th the CMS 1115 Waiver that allows Minnesota HMOs to administer Minnesota’s public health programs was renewed.  We were able to send dozens of postcards and direct many phone calls to CMS Director, Cynthia Mann.  GMHCC also was one of many organizations who wrote letters to CMS Director Mann asking her to carefully re-evaluate the waiver process, especially in light of the lack of transparency and accountability in the state-funded, but privately administered health plans in Minnesota.

Our allied efforts were also heavily responsible in bringing together Republican Sen. Sean Nienow and Democratic Sen. John Marty to call for accountability and transparency from Minnesota’s HMOs.  As a result of our efforts there were some transparency requirements that CMS placed on the HMOs.  Participating HMOs must submit financial reports quarterly and annually along with additional reporting requirements.

GMHCC also sent a letter to the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services asking for some specific answers to questions regarding the direction that would be taken in implementing and evaluating the directives that were issued by Gov. Dayton early this year. DHS Assistant Commissioner Scott Leitz offered a four-page response with some detailed answers to our questions, many of which give reason for optimism that some accountability changes are finally starting to emerge.

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