Last week, the United States of Care team continued our listening tour with events in our co-headquarters state of Minnesota, meeting with over 200 stakeholders working to find solutions to the health care challenges in the state. It is inspiring to witness the excitement fueling the collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation addressing the most complicated problems in health care. Minnesotans care deeply about their state, and want to ensure that all residents have access to affordable and quality health care regardless of their background. home state
Minnesota has been a leader in health policy innovation for decades, and continues to push the envelope. It established a basic health program, an inexpensive plan to provide coverage for low-income individuals and families that do not qualify for Medicaid, almost twenty years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2013, Minnesota established MNsure, the state-based exchange, which serves as the sole access point for Minnesotans on the individual market and a one-stop-shop for health care cost assistance. Most recently, in 2017, the state passed legislation to establish a two-year reinsurance program to lower premiums in the individual market through the end of 2019. Thanks to Minnesota’s proactive nature in health care policy, 94% of Minnesotans have health coverage, and premiums for marketplace plans are actually going down – bucking the current national trend.
The Minnesota Listening Tour Visit
A highlight of our visit was the opportunity to spend time with United States of Care board member Senator Dave Durenberger, whose depth of expertise in health policy and Minnesota politics has been a great asset to our work. We are grateful he was able to join us to share his unique perspective to inform our conversations.
Our tour started off at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, where we held an advocacy roundtable with 25 patient advocate organizations from the This Is Medicaid coalition. We learned about their successful and diverse coalition focusing on the power of organized patients who rely on Medicaid.
That same day, we spoke with business leaders from the state and local Chambers of Commerce, who reaffirmed that health care is one of the top concerns for their members.
We also had the opportunity to connect with Founder’s Council member Gary Wertish, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union, on the need for a path forward on health care that works for rural Americans and small business owners, including many farmers.
One theme that emerged in all these conversations was a sense of urgency from a wide range of stakeholders around the need to productively address high health care costs.
Even among these diverse voices, there was a strong consensus on the need to provide coverage that is truly affordable, and a recognition that in order to do so it will be critical to identify ways to address the underlying costs of health care in Minnesota.
The second day of our tour began with a bipartisan breakfast conversation with key state senators from across the political spectrum. We spoke about current events in health care in the state, and discovered a great deal of common ground among these leaders. All of them are concerned about the affordability of care for their constituents, and agreed to reconvene later this year to continue the conversation about how to collaborate on solutions during the 2019 legislative session. It was a refreshingly productive bipartisan conversation, a reminder of why we are pursuing a state-based approach to finding solutions, and a testament to Minnesota’s long legacy of statesmanship.
Our largest conversation of the tour was a roundtable on health inequities, which we hosted in collaboration with faculty from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. A Minnesota Department of Health 2017 statewide assessment found that people of color, American Indians, people with disabilities, people with low socioeconomic status, and members of the LGBTQ community have less opportunity for health and worse health outcomes than others. At United States of Care, a fundamental part of our mission is ensuring that all people have quality care and equal opportunities to be healthy, so we were eager to learn about what drives these different outcomes and how they can be addressed.
We brought together a panel of 30 stakeholders including community members, researchers, advocates, legislators, business leaders, and providers to discuss both the challenges and opportunities they see in Minnesota. One of the key participants was Dr. Penny Wheeler, CEO of Allina Health and a United States of Care Founder’s Council member. We were also fortunate that Margaret Laws, another Founder’s Council member and a leading national voice on health innovation and equity, was able to come to Minnesota to moderate the conversation. During the discussion, several existing efforts and collaborations to address the non-medical drivers of health in Minnesota were highlighted:
- Second Harvest Heartland’s FoodRx program, which makes healthy and culturally competent meals available to patients through prescriptions on a need or recurring basis. FoodRx operates through partnerships with Lutheran Social Services, CentraCare, Hennepin County Medical Center, UCare, and more.
- Penn Plymouth Partnership THOR Companies teamed up with North Point Health and Wellness Center, Estes Funeral Home, Minneapolis Urban League, UROC, Metro Transit, and Hennepin County to create a formal partnership along the four corners of Penn and Plymouth in North Minneapolis. This partnership works to drive economic development around the intersection, create momentum for more businesses to come to the area, influence home ownership value, and bring more job opportunities to North Minneapolis.
- Allina Health is one of thirty-two locations selected for the CMMI Accountable Health Community demonstration, which aims to screen Medicaid and Medicare patients to identify needs/experiences in 5 domains: housing, food, paying utility bills, interpersonal violence, and transportation, and connect them to appropriate community organizations.
- Hennepin Health is a Medicaid ACO formed from a 4-way partnership with Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health Department, Hennepin County Medical Center, Metropolitan Health Plan, and NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center. The program stratifies patients into risk tiers, providing the highest risk patients with intensive care coordination. Care coordinators develop patient-specific plans based on need, and connect patients with primary care and county social services. They better understand patients’ wants and needs through human centered design to create solutions that focus on the social determinants of health.
- UMN Rural Health Research Center conducts policy-relevant research to improve the lives, and address inequities of rural communities across the United States through funding from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
The roundtable included a focus on the success and sustainability of these efforts, and United States of Care is planning to continue engaging with these stakeholders to be a partner in the continuing work to eliminate health inequities in Minnesota.
As an organization, we are motivated by the hard work of all of the Minnesota advocates, business leaders, legislators, researchers, providers, and plans. It is evident that the state is working to remain at the forefront of the country and to provide the best health and health care to all Minnesotans. We couldn’t be prouder to be co-headquartered there, and to be taking part in these important and exciting efforts!