Letter: Align tough choices with Minnesota's prioritiesWith less than four weeks remaining for the Legislature and governor to craft a budget solution that reflects Minnesota’s priorities, we urge them to remember that Minnesota’s standing as a national health and health care leader did not happen by accident.
By: Leonard Massa, President, Minnesota Hospital Associaton, St. Paul, Worthington Daily Globe
With less than four weeks remaining for the Legislature and governor to craft a budget solution that reflects Minnesota’s priorities, we urge them to remember that Minnesota’s standing as a national health and health care leader did not happen by accident. We’ve achieved this position after decades of practices and policies that keep people healthy through broad access to affordable health care and supporting providers in implementing high-quality care and innovative care delivery approaches.
There’s no question that the state’s budget situation demands tough choices, but it also begs for creative thinking to balance the books while preserving the qualities that make Minnesota great. Cuts alone are not the solution. The health care system and providers in our state must be part of the budget solution and that will mean painful adjustments but, as we evaluate the cuts-only approach as it is currently being proposed by House and Senate leaders, it’s hard to claim that these consequences reflect Minnesota values:
* Cutting off access to health care coverage for thousands of Minnesotans. The impacted people will likely never tell you this they are people you know — a neighbor who’s working two jobs to make ends meet but neither job provides health care; a friend who has a disability through no fault of his own; a farmer who is putting everything he has into making his operation successful but doesn’t have a health care option. And, kids — children — make up a significant percentage of Medicaid recipients.
* Guaranteeing higher uncompensated care costs as these same people turn to ERs as their only health care option. Uncompensated care is one of the major contributors to rising health care costs for all businesses and consumers.
* Reduced community-based health services as hospitals are forced to eliminate specialty care clinics, hospice care, ambulance service or other important services.
* Job losses: In what was supposed to be a jobs-focused session, it is likely that hospitals will be forced to eliminate high-skilled, high-quality jobs.
The point is that a cuts only approach doesn’t work not just because of the pain it inflicts but because it works against the goal of higher-quality, lower-cost health care. Fortunately, there is time to get it right. Minnesota hospitals welcome a discussion around these principles:
* Treat health care as essential: The majority of the budget solution cannot fall disproportionately on health care services.
* A balanced approach. Consistent with what Minnesotans are suggesting, cuts and new revenue need to be in the mix.
* Meaningful reform: Cuts are not reform. Change the way care is paid for and delivered.
* Limit the uncompensated care burden: The current path is not sustainable.
Where there is a will there is a way. If legislators and the governor focus on aligning tough choices with Minnesota’s priorities, they will find the pathway to a thoughtful budget solution.