Klobuchar talks health care reformMinnesota senator visits with local hospital staff WORTHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington (SRHW) Wednesday morning to speak with health care professionals about the challenges of health care in rural communities. The main topics of conversation revolved around reform, reimbursement and recruitment of rural doctors.
By: Justine Wettschreck, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington (SRHW) Wednesday morning to speak with health care professionals about the challenges of health care in rural communities.
The main topics of conversation revolved around reform, reimbursement and recruitment of rural doctors.
“We have strong hospitals and medical care in rural Minnesota,” Klobuchar said.
With one of the highest insurance coverage rates in the country, Minnesota has a lot of to offer to the health care debate, she added.
In Medicare reimbursements, what is costing $15,000 in Miami, Fla. is costing $7,000 in Minnesota, Klobuchar said, due to inefficient care and too many specialists. Several states, such as Florida, she suggested, are dragging the health care system down, and could use states like Minnesota as models.
“My primary focus is to make sure we’re keeping what is good in Minnesota,” she said.
Insurance premiums, Klobuchar said, are forecast to double in the next 10 years.
“We need to be talking about changing how the cost structure works,” she stated. “My biggest push is to make health care more affordable.”
Klobuchar has been spending time in the month of August to visit health care professionals in the state to find out where their concerns lie and what they might see as solutions.
“I think of August as a gift,” she remarked.
Klobuchar said she had recently met with medical students from the University of Minnesota to get their thoughts on how to get new doctors and health care professionals to locate in rural America. The best answer they came up with, she said, was to recruit the students that had grown up in rural settings.
SRHW Doctor Bharat Patel, M.D., said recruiting and retaining physicians, especially in primary care, is a complex issue.
“Everyone wants to go into specialties and into the big cities,” he said. “The difference in compensation for physicians is an incentive to move to the cities.”
Primary care physicians, he added, are needed, but the reimbursement ratio for specialists versus primary care has more doctors leaning toward specialty work.
“Primary care physicians are the most hard-worked in rural settings,” he said. “Physicians coming out of school now want to work less hours and pay off their loans. … Doctors are finding better lives in the bigger cities, with less stress and better hours.”
Primary care physicians are forced to see more patients in less time, Patel said, than specialists.
More and more family practice physicians are declining to work in obstetrics, he added, because of the cost of malpractice insurance.
“That is hurting rural communities,” he said
SRHW Director of Nursing Jennifer Weg said Worthington has never faced a nursing shortage and experiences longevity in staff, but as a whole, they advocate for physician recruitment.
They also see the ramifications of the expenses of health care on patients.
“We are here to deliver quality care,” Weg stated. “But patients are stressed when admitted because of the costs. Living in a farming community and relying on insurance isn’t easy to afford. Not even for our employees.”
Other issues raised by health care professionals in attendance included critical access, dealing with misinformation, public option and whether or not more government involvement is the answer to health care woes.