Governor Pawlenty Needs a Better Health Care Agenda

St. Paul --- Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC) responds to Governor Pawlenty's health care proposals as outlined in today's State of the State address. The following statement is made by Twila Brase, president of CCHC:

"We are disappointed in the Governor's health care agenda. The Governor's legislative initiatives focus on health care cost containment through financial penalties, intrusive monitoring of patients and their doctors, and plans to computerize medical records and make them available online.

Notably absent is any mention of patient consent for government monitoring of patient care, for placing everyone's medical history online, or for government imposing itself in the middle of the confidential, trusted patient-doctor relationship.

The Governor's pay-for-performance initiative will not only focus the physician's attention on a government-imposed "to do" list rather than the patient's individual needs, it will halt innovation in medicine. If the proposed agenda becomes law, we expect that patients will suffer, paperwork will increase, patient trust will decline, and health care costs will rise.

We call on Governor Pawlenty to instead introduce health care legislation that respects the rights of patients and empowers the patient-doctor relationship to meet the needs of patients while reducing health care costs."

TEXT of Governor Pawlenty's Health Care Comments in the State of the State Address, March 9, 2006:

"In addition to improving our education system, our future success also depends on innovating and improving our healthcare system.

People currently excluded from health insurance tend to be the working poor. Basic health insurance is available for less than 200 dollars per month. We need to direct our HMOs and insurance companies to raise awareness and get more uninsured people to use these plans. We may also need to consider incentives or requirements for uninsured citizens to have health insurance coverage.
Let's also measure and pay for better healthcare outcomes. What gets measured and paid for, gets done.

We can start by focusing on chronic conditions like childhood obesity and diabetes, which are significant problems in our society.
There are clear best practice measurements for treating these diseases that will save lives and save money. We should begin to reward providers for meeting these performance measurements right away.
Today I'm directing the Department of Employee Relations to incorporate "pay for performance" into the state's health plan and will ask the Legislature to expand this approach to all public programs.

We must also control other healthcare costs. Every business can tell you how much they charge for their service. Healthcare providers should be able to do the same.

Last year, we required some healthcare providers to supply some cost information. Now it's time to require it from all providers and for more procedures.

We must also focus on reducing administrative costs in healthcare.

Say your grandma goes to a new doctor. They hand her that annoying, long form, with all the questions she's had to answer ten other times in ten other offices. The doctor asks her what medicines she takes, and all of us have trouble remembering the names and the dosages. Maybe the physicians can't treat her until her medical file has been transferred from across town. And then the providers, patients, and the insurers engage in a paper war over what to pay for.

In the meantime, grandma's mailbox fills up with paper that says, "THIS IS NOT A BILL." We need to help healthcare administration enter the 21st century. We need electronic medical records.

I am proposing a 12 million dollar program to help small healthcare providers make the transition to an interconnected electronic medical record system so that medical errors are reduced and healthcare is improved. Today I am also challenging the providers and healthcare plans to match this amount so we can make progress more quickly.

Finally on the issue of health, Minnesota is recognized for our public health and emergency response systems. But as we face the threat of a worldwide bird flu pandemic, we need to be even better prepared. I propose we bolster our efforts with an immediate ten million dollar infusion of funds to further strengthen our defenses against this threat."

Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President and Co-founder
Office: 651-646-8935