When I joined my freshman colleagues in the Minnesota House, I joined a chorus of voices advocating for health care for all. I have heard the same concerns, as did my classmates, that health care coverage is growing too expensive; people are paying more for less coverage or losing coverage outright; people are feeling insecure about getting the care they needed if, and when, they needed it, and they are expressing strong support for change.
Over the past several months, I have worked closely with other DFL lawmakers to evaluate policy ideas that will make affordable coverage available for all Minnesotans, improve the health of our population, and ensure that cost effective care is provided to the sick. These are the benchmarks that will guide me as the Legislature reviews its options next session and in the sessions to come.
As a registered nurse, I know how important health coverage is to a person's health, peace of mind and their financial security. I recall clearly my conversation with a woman being treated for cancer. She was scheduled to lose MNCare coverage resulting from state budget cuts. She did not know if she could continue her treatment. While some argue that everyone has coverage through Minnesota’s emergency rooms, this woman was left without options. How we care for the most vulnerable among us is an important measure of society and in the case of this woman, we failed.
My background in nursing is very useful in my new profession -- contemplating care delivery reform and helping to evaluate how the state's health policy decisions influence the care that people in Minnesota receive. As a lawmaker, I am still guided by the important values I developed as a practicing nurse: compassion, dignity, and the need to treat every patient with equality.
I am very encouraged about the transformative health care policy efforts underway. Over the past decade, the health care debate has divided those hoping to extend coverage to the uninsured against those opposed to expansion of public programs, like Minnesota Care. Our current health care crisis offers a unique opportunity to bridge that philosophical divide. We are beginning to realize that 100% coverage is less meaningful when that coverage is unaffordable for hard-working Minnesotans and their families. Affordable insurance requires real value for each dollar spent; a real effort to improve the health of our population through timely preventive care services; and real investments in our public health system. We have begun to understand the cost drivers of health care inflation and we are working to develop solutions to address those cost drivers. Health care costs that rapidly outpace a regular family's paycheck have resulted in the growth in the numbers of uninsured.
Not since the early 1990’s has the Minnesota Legislature engaged in an intentional and deliberative process on health care. With the passage of the Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill, the work of the Legislative Commission on Health Care Access (HCAC) and the Governor’s Transformation Task Force (Task Force) was set. By 2011, Minnesota must cut overall health care costs by 20% and extend coverage to all. These are noble and necessary goals.
Since July, the Task Force, the HCAC, and its eight working groups have engaged in a thorough examination of the current delivery, payment, and financing mechanisms. The eight working groups are as follows:
Cost Containment: Identify Health Care Costs and Savings, Health Care Home and Care of those with Chronic Conditions
Cost Containment: Restructure The Health Care System Through the Identified Savings
Development of New Cost Containment Strategies
Insurance Market Reform
Health Care for Long Term Care Workers
Single Payer Health Care
Bridging the Health Continuum
Each group was charged with discreet goals and working groups produced recommendations to the HCAC in early November. The recommendations can be found on the HCAC web page at www.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/lchca.
The HCAC will debate the recommendations, review fiscal notes tied to the proposals, and begin to assemble policy proposals. Upcoming meetings of the HCAC can be found on the HCAC web page.
The Governor’s Transformation Task Force continues to meet and will produce its recommendations at the start of next year. You can learn more about the work at
Throughout this process, I am working hard to ensure your views are well represented at the table. I served on the Governor’s Commission on Long Term Care and Vet’s Home. I also chaired a Legislative Health Care Access Commission Working Group with Senator Tony Lourey. This working group addressed cost containment, analyzed the idea of a health care home (a concept which Mayo Clinic physicians have found saves as much as 10 percent in total health care costs), and the need to improve care for those with chronic conditions. I am also a member of an additional working group studying the utility of voluntary pools as another reform option
We still have a lot of work ahead of us before the next legislative session begins in February. I invite you to share your health care ideas and questions with me at email@example.com. If you would like to receive email updates on our progress, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “health care e-updates” in the subject line. We will add you to the list.
Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2007 by Erin Murphy,