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Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met with members of the Duluth medical community to discuss strategies to improve health care infrastructure in northeastern 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, along with policy tools in the federal Affordable Care Act, will cut the rate of uninsured Minnesotans by nearly half over the next few years.
“Providing insurance to over 145,000 poor Minnesotans through Medical Assistance is a big step forward for our state,” said Jesson. “But an insurance card does not always mean access to care, which is why the governor’s budget proposes investments in our health care system as well.”
To help ensure the health care system continues to be able to provide the world-class care it is known for, the proposal calls for a $12.8 million investment in Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) for the next biennium. These dollars are matched by the federal government and amount to a total of $25.6 million. These funds support clinical training in Minnesota’s teaching hospitals and are a critical part of maintaining a strong health care workforce, particularly in Greater Minnesota.
The proposal also calls for investing approximately $27.2 million over the 2014-2015 biennium to increase hospital, physician and dental reimbursement rates.
In difficult budget years, these rates have failed to keep up with rising costs and have even been cut in some years. In 2009, dental rates covered only about 40 percent of the median retail fees for dentists compared with the nationwide average of 60 percent for other state Medicaid programs.
Ideas brought by the panel include the importance of attracting additional primary care physicians to the medical profession, supporting pharmacists and mental health professionals and continuing reform efforts to incentivize quality over quantity in the health care delivery system.
“I want to thank Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon and Commissioner Jesson for visiting with us today and listening to our ideas and concerns about health care in the Arrowhead region,” said Dr. Ray Christensen, associate dean for rural health and associate director of the Rural Physician Associate Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth. “Every region of the state is unique, and we greatly appreciate the governor’s proactive approach to getting local voices involved in the policy and budget conversation.”
Held at the University of Minnesota Medical School campus in Duluth, the panel included Dr. Ray Christensen; Cathy VonRueden, vice president of Essentia Health; Ann Bussey, vice president of Essentia Institute of Rural Health; Dr. Gary Peterson, medical director of St. Luke’s Hospital; and Jayme Collins, chief executive officer of Range Mental Health Center.
More about human services budget proposals can be found on the DHS website.