It’s September 2011… where HAS the summer gone? Around here it’s disappeared amidst a swirl of: county fairs, GMHCC/7County meetings, parades, ECHOES editions, potluck fundraisers, 4th of July holiday activities, store promotions, volunteer fun trips, income tax preparations, senior defensive driving classes, SPC program rollouts, special birthday celebrations, insurance counseling sessions, and even some vacation time as the calendar would allow. Summers seem to fill up and flash by nearly at the speed of light. I suppose if we had fewer things going on the pace would slow dramatically, but who wants that?
Under the heading of most current meetings in Seven County, and in conjunction with our GMHCC allies, we had the privilege of meeting and conversing with key members of Minnesota’s government administration. Four people (see story in Echoes Newsletter) made the trek to St. Paul to spend an hour or so with new Commerce Commissioner Michael Rothman. The elected presidents of three (3) regions accompanied Northeast staff director Buddy Robinson to a meeting held in downtown St. Paul. By all accounts the meeting was very productive and should foster an open dialogue with yet another state government agency associated closely with the quality and access of healthcare services in the state. Mr. Rothman gave every indication that he would be pursuing the accountability reform that was so prominently discussed during the 2011 legislative session (thanks in large part to GMHCC and its allies). Efficient and transparent use of state tax dollars targeted for healthcare programs is the stated goal of the Commerce Department, the Department of Health (MDH), and the Department of Human Services (DHS), as per our conversations with the heads of all of those state agencies this year.
Following the meeting with the Commerce Commissioner, a group of us made a trip to Duluth and had a very enlightening meeting with Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner-Solon at her office. Many of the same discussion points were covered during the meeting, as we also were joined via teleconference by Dan Pollock, special health policy advisor to Governor Dayton. Ms. Prettner-Solon reinforced the notion that the healthcare directives issued in early spring by the governor would be moving forward, especially the segments dealing with accounting standards and transparency. Additionally, the focus of these efforts will parallel the administration’s work in preparing for the implementation of the state health insurance exchange. The exchanges (or an equivalent) will need to be up and running in Minnesota by January of 2014, so there’s lots of work to be done in the meantime. GMHCC and its allies will, of course, be offering up their input into the structure and delivery changes that are being considered.
There are some early indications that the new state budget (passed during special session) will do a lot of damage to our highly-successful CBP (County Based Purchasing) operations in Minnesota. It appears that legislative efforts to get HMOs to be more competitive (and hopefully reduce their massive, excess reserves) have had the effect of causing collateral damage to CBPs by treating them just like HMOs. It might be the only time in history that HMOs and CBPs are treated the same. Seeing as how CBPs are completely transparent and operate under a more open set of reporting rules, it seems fair that they should not be handled the same way as HMOs. The baby is being thrown out with the bath water in this instance, with no way to even know if the legislation aimed towards accountability in the HMO world will have the desired effect.
All of this goes back to our original contention that turning over all of the state financed healthcare business to private HMOs over twenty years ago was a big mistake. The mistake was compounded by allowing the HMOs to design their own accounting/reporting standards and have NEVER have been asked to openly demonstrate how they spend our tax dollars, or on what. Main street businesses would never, and could never, operate that way; writing checks to a contractor without ever asking for a detailed invoice? So let’s just take their word for it? It’s more than just bad business; it’s incompetence of the worst sort.
We will be sharing all of our most current updates, healthcare and more, when we get back into the regular swing of things at our September Seven County meeting on Thursday the 8th. Hope to see you all there as we get back to “normal” business.
Peace… and good, affordable, accessible health to all!