It's been our agency's policy to refrain from using our newsletter as a podium for political statements, and this article is no exception. However, there are some facts about Minnesota health insurance plans that you should know when analyzing this ongoing debate over national health care reform. First of all, we need to appreciate that the state of Minnesota ranks at the top in the nation, for quality and efficiency of health care. Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Representative Jim Ramstad co-authored an article written in the StarTribune on August 18th, entitled “Let’s debate health care respectfully”. They said, "while we may not always agree, we do share the view that Minnesota has a lot to be proud of when it comes to health care. We rank near the top in terms of residents who have health insurance coverage, and our doctors and nurses are applauded for both the quality care they provide to patients and the cost-effective way they deliver that care. As our country debates health care reform, one of our top priorities is making sure any plan doesn't undermine the progress that Minnesota has already made." This is a big point. We are way ahead of many of the issues. They both agree that our challenge is controlling health care costs. Health care costs are hurting our small businesses with this soaring expense and families are struggling to keep up with the premiums to keep their coverage. They go on to say "As part of any health care reform effort, our system needs to reward high-quality, efficient care to reduce health care costs”. The Director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently testified before Congress that “to truly contain health care spending, Congress must change the way that Medicare pays providers in an effort to encourage cost-effectiveness in health care". This is a key issue for Minnesota. While we hold out role model health care systems like the Mayo Clinic for quality and efficiency in treatment, Minnesota providers receive the lowest reimbursement from Medicare in the nation. Why is that, you ask? Minnesota is more efficient in the treatment/results process. Patients are seen less times resulting in less federal reimbursement. Our providers are basically penalized for efficiency. In a September 25th StarTribune article written by Kevin Diaz, “Special interests swarm health plan” Diaz says "Mayo lost $765 million during the past year caring for Medicare patients. It has been in the forefront of a push in Congress to reform Medicare to reward high-quality, low-cost providers, possibly at the expense of doctors and hospitals in other parts of the country that rack up higher fees. Mayo Clinic has already spent it's lobbying budget for the year in Washington, and it's by no means the largest lobby shop in Washington". Mayo however "...has had a particularly outsized influence on the debate, when cited by President Obama as a model for the kind of cost-effective, patient-centered medicine that reformers would like to replicate across the nation." Where else does Minnesota stand ahead of issues being discussed in reform? Minnesota is a state of nonprofit health plans. Blue Cross, HealthPartners, Medica, and Preferred One, are all nonprofit insurance organizations. Pat Geraghty, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, says in a September 20th StarTribune article entitlted “A few points about how it works here”, "Blue Cross is a nonprofit organization not because our state law requires health plans to be nonprofit but because we believe that being a nonprofit organization is the best way to fulfill our purpose, which is to make a healthy difference in people's lives. We invest in health, not profits-and we believe this should be the priority of any health care organization." Mr. Geraghty goes on to say, "Minnesota leads the nation in working to cover all people. Our state has a strong record of public-private partnerships working to create coverage options that are sustainable and that provide approximately 92 percent of Minnesotans with health care coverage. But we need to do more. We support a health care system in which all have coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions. The removal of preexisting conditions from the marketplace requires an individual mandate for coverage. We endorse a government regulation requiring all Americans to carry health insurance, and we also support government subsidies to help those who cannot afford it, so that financial circumstances do not create a barrier to equal coverage." Patrick Geraghty makes the same point as Senator Klobuchar and former Representative Ramstad which is to reward quality, not quantity. For health care reform to work, it must include more than insurance reforms. Insurance deals with a small fraction of the health care dollar. Comprehensive reform also must reward quality, control rising costs and ensure that everyone has coverage. Our Minnesota insurance companies already have preventive care as a built in benefit in most of their group plans, another issue President Obama has stressed. Minnesota has included that feature for years. There is no question that reform is needed and rising costs need to be dealt with, but let's not ignore the progress that Minnesota has made, and quite frankly should be regarded more highly when considering the direction of health care reform.