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Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Minnesota Hospital Association President and CEO Lawrence Massa met with members of the St. Cloud medical community today to discuss strategies to improve health care infrastructure in central Minnesota and across the state.
The panel event, “Investing in Minnesota’s Health Care Future,” elicited a wide range of ideas on how to prepare for a growing number of Minnesotans with health care insurance. Proposals in Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget to cover 145,000 additional Minnesotans through Medical Assistance, along with policy tools in the federal Affordable Care Act, will cut the uninsured rate by nearly half over the next few years.
“These are significant steps forward for the state, but we also must ensure Minnesotans with health insurance have access to the world-class health care this state is known for,” said Jesson. “The governor’s budget makes investments that support primary care physicians, clinics, hospitals and other essential infrastructure to keep our health care system strong.”
Held at CentraCare Clinic Health Plaza in St. Cloud, Jesson highlighted CentraCare Health System’s participation in a new reform initiative to provide better health care to 100,000 Minnesota Medicaid recipients while saving the program an estimated $90 million over the next three years. CentraCare is one of six health care providers testing a new payment model that prioritizes quality, preventive care and rewards providers for achieving mutually-agreed upon health goals. The health care delivery system demonstration is one measure that incentives quality in the governor’s budget proposal.
Among other proposals for the next biennium is a $12.8 million investment in Medical Education and Research Costs. These dollars, matched by the federal government for a total of $25.6 million, will benefit clinical training in Minnesota’s teaching hospitals, which are critical to maintaining a strong health care workforce, particularly in Greater Minnesota. The governor’s budget also proposes investing $27.2 million over the 2014-2015 biennium to increase hospital, physician and dental reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients. In difficult budget years, these rates have failed to keep up with rising costs.
Panelists echoed the importance of additional primary care physicians and mental health professionals especially in rural areas, and suggested loan forgiveness as a way to help attract them to the field. Other ideas discussed by the panel included expanding the use of health care homes, which provide better coordinated care to patients, and continuing reform efforts to incentivize quality over quantity in the health care delivery system.
“The Minnesota Hospital Association is appreciative that Gov. Dayton’s budget includes increased investments in our state’s health care programs to improve Minnesotans’ access to services and ensure sustainability of health and human services programs,” said Massa. “We are pleased that the governor has already signed into law the expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income Minnesotans. In addition, the governor’s budget restores MERC funding to fiscal year 2011 levels and it will leverage federal matching funds and will help hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies maintain their training programs for our state’s future physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, pharmacists and dentists.”
In addition to Massa and Jesson, the panel included Dr. David Tilstra, president of CentraCare Clinic; Dr. Steven Vincent, director of Behavioral Health Services for St. Cloud Hospital; Dr. Daron Gersch, a family practice doctor in Albany, Minn., and president-elect of the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians; and Christine Bakke, administrator of Gorecki Care Center for St. Benedict’s Senior Community.
A similar panel discussion was held Feb. 15 in Duluth, and another is scheduled Tuesday, March 5, in Rochester. More information about human services budget proposals can be found on the DHS website.