In a matter of days, there will be a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that will have significant ramifications for health care in the United States and Minnesota. The Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law. While the decision will likely generate further national debate, it’s important to acknowledge that the decision won’t change some basic facts about health care in Minnesota.
Minnesota has been a pioneer in health care for more than a century and, regardless of the Court’s decision, we will continue to be a national leader. We have taken a local, commonsense approach to improving the health of our communities, lowering cost through high quality care and providing affordable coverage in our state. No matter what the Court decides, Minnesotans already know how to collaborate to improve our health care system and move forward together, in the best interest of our state.
While Minnesota’s health care system does better overall compared to the rest of the country, we all still struggle with unsustainable health care costs and lack of access to care. More than 14 percent of our state economy is consumed by health care costs and even with this spending, nearly 490,000 Minnesotans are uninsured. The fear of unaffordable health care holds back entrepreneurs who want to set out on their own and keeps small businesses from new hiring or raising wages. If we don’t take action to address these concerns, the problems will only grow as Minnesota’s demographics change and our population ages.
In 2010, the Minnesota Legislature enacted legislation allowing the Department of Human Services to develop a Collaborative Psychiatric Consultation Service. Now, the Minnesota Department of Human Services has entered into a two-year, $1.7 million contract with the Mayo Clinic to deliver specialized guidance to primary care providers and pediatricians who prescribe psychotropic medications for children. The new service is referred to as “collaborative psychiatric consultation” and is based on pilot projects that have been shown to improve quality of care and save money.
Many features of the contract were based on recommendations from the Children’s Psychiatric Consultation Protocols Workgroup. The two-year state and federal investment of $1.7 million in the program is expected to be completely offset by lowered costs for inpatient hospitalizations and medications in the state’s Medical Assistance (MA) program—the state's version of the state-federal Medicaid public health insurance program. Use of the service will be required for Medical Assistance fee-for-service payment for certain psychotropic medications, although all Minnesota physicians will be encouraged to use the service on a voluntary basis.
While developing this service, DHS sought input from pediatricians, family practice physicians, nurses, mental health professionals, families, advocates, school staff and many others who care for children and youth with mental health needs. The contract with the Mayo Clinic integrates many of the suggestions that DHS received from this broad range of stakeholders.
Lt. Governor Prettner Solon convened the first meeting of the “Own Your Future” Advisory Panel, a group charged with guiding a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage Minnesotans to plan for the care they will need as they grow older.
The group aims to raise awareness of the importance of advance planning in ensuring that Minnesotans have more control and more choice in meeting their long-term health care needs. The focus of the panel is to develop and implement strategies to increase the number of Minnesotans who take action to address and provide for their future long-term care. “We need to engage all Minnesotans in thinking about how they will plan for and pay for the care they are likely to need as we, as a society, are living longer and growing older,” Prettner Solon said.
In addition the panel will aid in the development and review of materials for use by Minnesota employers, grassroots organizations and community groups, and provide outreach assistance in a public awareness effort. The Lieutenant Governor expressed gratitude “for the assistance […] of Minnesotans representing key sectors of labor, business, health care, the faith community and non-profit organizations” in working towards these goals.
Minnesota is already a high-risk area for Lyme, a disease found primarily in northeastern and upper Midwestern states. A record-high 1,293 cases of Lyme were reported in 2010 and many experts predict we are on track to have more this year. Ticks can survive Minnesota’s harsh winters and become active when the temperature reaches 38 degrees, so while these parasites usually won’t be seen until March, they may have been active in January and February this year.
Lyme is carried by the Eastern blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. They are smaller than the common American Dog tick – better known as the wood tick. In order to prevent picking up a tick and the Lyme bacteria they can carry, take precautions when outdoors this summer. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends you avoid walking in brush or tall grass if you are in wooded areas; keep your feet, ankles, and legs covered; and use an insect repellant containing DEET on uncovered skin (except the face).
If you find a tick, remove it by the head with a tweezers – pulling it off by the body can leave the head embedded in your skin, increasing the risk of Lyme transmission. If you are unable to do this, visit a doctor. Since early treatment is key to a quick recovery, you should also visit a doctor if you suspect you may have contracted Lyme. Symptoms include a red “bulls-eye”-type rash around the bite area, as well as joint pain, fatigue, and flu-like fever or chills.
Minnesota has long been recognized as one of the healthiest states in the nation and a role model for others across the country in protecting and promoting the health of its people. In recognition of Minnesota’s achievements in public health and to promote future accomplishments, Governor Mark Dayton has declared this week to be Public Health Recognition Week.
"The successes of public health often go unrecognized," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "In fact, most people may not know that public health accomplishments, not medical care, were responsible for 25 of the 30 years of life gained by Americans during the 20th Century." Those accomplishments include vaccination, motor vehicle safety, disease control, safer and healthier foods, and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard.
Public health has played a crucial role in laying the foundation for good health and longevity in the state. Preventing disease, controlling environmental health hazards, and promoting healthy behaviors have all been an important part of helping Minnesotans live longer lives free of disease.
There was a lot of action this week at the Capitol, with legislative deadlines looming and important legislation on the move. However, there was also a lot of great work being done around government reform and improving services for all Minnesotans.
Today, the Governor stood with Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to celebrate yet another competitive federal grant award for MDE. Today’s grant money brings the total amount of new money won by the department under the Dayton administration to nearly $119 million. These reforms (and the funding we have won as a result) mean that our state’s schools continue to improve and that Minnesota is returning to a role as a national leader in education.
Earlier this week, Human Services Commissioner Cindy Jesson did a wonderful job of trumpeting her Department’s work to save taxpayers money while still ensuring that their programs serve Minnesotans well. The Department of Human Services has established a new Office of the Inspector General to root out waste and fraud in social service programs.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is the state’s largest agency, serving well over one million people annually. The department administers a broad range of services, including health care, economic assistance, mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment. At the helm of the department, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson has engaged in some of the State’s toughest battles over the past year, including keeping services rolling throughout the State Government Shutdown.
This week Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) profiled the work of Commissioner Jesson. The article commends Commissioner Jesson for her perseverance and positive demeanor when dealing with last year’s budget fights.
“She has got one of the toughest commissioner jobs that is out there,” [Minnesota Hospital Association president] Massa says. “She has been very open to working with stakeholders. She is a good communicator. If she thinks something is going to be controversial, she will give us a call or have someone on her staff give us a call.”
Getting Minnesota Back to Work
- Under the Governor’s leadership Minnesota continues to outpace the national economic recovery. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 5.9 percent, compared to 8.6 percent for the rest of the country. There are 53,000 more Minnesotans at work now, compared to the bottom of the recession.
- Governor Dayton worked to pass a $500 million bonding bill, putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work improving bridges, roads and infrastructure.
For the past six years, Minnesota has worked to eradicate bovine TB and regain its statewide TB-Free Status. With the help of nearly 500 veterinarians, Minnesota producers have tested more than 800,000 head of cattle and Minnesota deer hunters and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have tested nearly 14,000 wild deer for TB.
Minnesota's efforts have raised the bar in disease eradication by showcasing how producers and local, state, and federal agencies should work together, work quickly, and work effectively to eliminate a disease. To read the proclamation, click here.