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As others see it: Cost-cutting means diminishing return

Almost everyone these days has had some belt-tightening experience. Either at home or at work, the quest for efficiency never ends -- and in that quest for maximum results at minimum expense, there are times when we go too far. Occasionally, cost-cutting strategies can cross the line of diminishing return.

Right now, the cash-strapped state of Minnesota has little choice but to see how close it can come to that line. That's why it is changing the way disabled people are evaluated for the level of state-funded, in-home care they receive from personal care attendants.

Most of us, fortunately, will never need such care. But more than 11,000 Minnesotans depend on it to maintain their independence and quality of life, at a cost that now tops $200 million per year. ...

When public programs grow, so too does the likelihood of inefficiency and inconsistency. The personal care program is no exception, especially given that it depends on the judgment of public health care nurses across the state who assess dis-abled peoples' needs and determine how much assistance they require.

The state is taking steps to standardize this system. All counties must now use the same assessment tool, which is supposed to reduce or eliminate the "judgment calls" that in the past have resulted in some pa-tients receiving more care than others who have similar needs.

The problem, of course, is that this new system has the potential to cause inconvenience and potentially life-changing results for people who've already endured more than their share of suffering. ...

Obviously, it's in everyone's best interests to make sure that doesn't happen. ... The bottom line is that as more people require this type of care, the state is duty-bound to make sure every dollar is spent effectively and fairly.

Post-Bulletin of Rochester