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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > Southwest > Sustainable Tourism and Resilient Communities > West Central Healthcare Purchasing Alliance

West Central Healthcare Purchasing Alliance

Project files

Purpose

To create options for affordable healthcare coverage for farmers and small businesses and to sustain a viable healthcare system in region.

Partners

Minnesota Rural Health Association
Center for Rural Affairs
UMN-Morris Center for Small Towns

Activities

2009 & 2010:

  1. Continue to provide timely research to support monthly WCHPA Board meetings. Dr. Thorson (May 2007-May 2008) and Dr. Finzel (September 2008-May 2009) both received support for this research.
  2. Identify strategies to improve health insurance offerings in our 12 county region.
  3. Meet with area legislators to share information about these plan proposals
  4. Propose modification of Minnesota care to more effectively serve the rural poor.
  5. Propose legislation for a type of co-insurance to entice fully ensure partners to work with us to create a health insurance product for small rural employers.
  6. Update the white paper to reflect these strategies.
  7. The West Central Minnesota Healthcare Purchasing Alliance (WCMHPA) sprouted from Study Circles sponsored by the West Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (WCRSDP) in 2001. WCRSDP provided funding for initial needs assessments, research and organization.
  8. During the winter 2002 – 2003, public forums were held to determine interest in formation of a healthcare purchasing alliance. As a result of these forums, a steering committee was formed which subsequently moved to create an Executive Committee. In this initial period, steering and executive committees served as volunteers with no reimbursement for mileage or meeting attendance. Later a formal Board of Directors was formed and has continued meeting on a monthly basis to continue development of this very complex project.

2009:

  1. The WCHPA continued to examine options for creating a health insurance product that would meet the needs of the rural residents in our region. It became increasing clear, however, that to do so would require some changes in state law.
  2. The WCHPA sponsored two legislative forums in the region, one in the Fall of 2007 with the Minnesota House Health Care Policy Committee and one in the Fall of 2008 with the Senate Committee on Health and Human Service Budget Chairperson Linda Berglin. These were well publicized throughout the region and were well attended. During both forums, the WCHPA presented research to support the need to change existing state law to better reflect the unique health insurance needs of rural Minnesotans. Dr. Thorson presented the research in 2007; Dr. Finzel in 2008. Both forums were followed by work by Finzel and Thorson, respectively, to develop legislative proposals to address the concerns discussed.
  3. The WCHPA legislation was introduced in both the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions. Dr. Thorson and Dr. Finzel provided testimony to relevant House and Senate committees on four occasions in support of the bills.
  4. We continue to have representation at rural health conferences and committees.
  5. We continue to seek additional financial support.
  6. We continue to discuss alternative healthcare insurance options with local businesses and healthcare providers. To update our understanding of the problems confronting these groups in the current health insurance environment, a survey of providers and healthcare purchasers was planned in the spring of 2009 and administered in the summer and Fall of 2009. We intend to present the results of these surveys at public forums and leverage them to help identify those interested in our work in the region.

2010:

  1. The WCHPA continued to examine options for creating a health insurance product that would meet the needs of the rural residents in our region. It became increasing clear, however, that to do so would require some changes in state law.
  2. The WCHPA sponsored two legislative forums in the region, one in the Fall of 2007 with the Minnesota House Health Care Policy Committee and one in the Fall of 2008 with the Senate Committee on Health and Human Service Budget Chairperson Linda Berglin. These were well publicized throughout the region and were well attended. During both forums, the WCHPA presented research to support the need to change existing state law to better reflect the unique health insurance needs of rural Minnesotans.. Dr. Thorson presented the research in 2007; Dr. Finzel in 2008. Both forums were followed by work by Finzel and Thorson, respectively, to develop legislative proposals to address the concerns discussed.
  3. The WCHPA legislation was introduced in both the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions. Dr. Thorson and Dr. Finzel provided testimony to relevant House and Senate committees on four occasions in support of the bills.
  4. We continue to have representation at rural health conferences and committees.
  5. We continue to seek additional financial support.
  6. We continue to discuss alternative healthcare insurance options with local businesses and healthcare providers. To update our understanding of the problems confronting these groups in the current health insurance environment, a survey of providers and healthcare purchasers was planned in the spring of 2009 and administered in the summer and Fall of 2009. We intend to present the results of these surveys at public forums and leverage them to help identify those interested in our work in the region.

Outcomes

WCMHPA developed a business structure designed to be able to achieve 501(c)(3) status. Mission, goals and objectives were developed. A product design was drafted and has generated active discussion and ongoing development. WCMHPA was originally financed through a grant from WCRSDP. Later WCMHPA was granted funds from West Central Initiative, Southwest Minnesota Foundation and the Otto Bremer Foundation. Greg Thorson completed two major research projects, “A Health Care System in Critical Condition: Evidence of the Declining Affordability of Health Care Insurance and the Erosion of Health Care Infrastructure in West Central Minnesota” and “The Search for Affordable Health Care in Rural Minnesota: Prospects and Problems for Market-Based Solutions.”

2009:

Specific outcomes include our sponsorship of the legislative forums and the interest in our approach we have cultivated with local legislators; the introduction of specific legislation and House and Senate hearings on these bills; the survey work in progress. See approach section.

Fourth Quarter 2007: Monthly meetings of WCHPA Board; Policy discussions; Legislative forum with House Health Care Policy Committee

First Quarter of 2008: Monthly meetings of the WCHPA Board; Policy discussions; Minnesota Care Bill, Stop Loss bill; and Funding for Purchasing Alliance bill drafted and introduced in the House and Senate.

Second Quarter of 2008: Monthly meetings of WCHPA Board; House hearings and testimony on Minnesota Care Bill and Stop Loss bill.

Third Quarter of 2008: monthly meetings of WCHPA Board; Policy discussion; transition to new Research Coordinator

Fourth Quarter of 2008: Monthly meetings of WCHPA Board; legislative forum with the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Committee; Bremer grant renewal proposal written and submitted.

First Quarter of 2009: Monthly meetings of the WCHPA Board; meeting with Bremer grant representative (grant is denied); significantly revised versions of Minnesota Care Bill, Stop Loss bill; and Funding for Purchasing Alliance bill drafted and introduced in the House and Senate; House and Senate hearings and testimony on Minnesota Care Bill and Stop Loss bill.

Second Quarter of 2009: Monthly meetings of the WCHPA Board; Proposal to the Center for Small Towns Faculty Fellows Program to support survey work of the WCHPA (accepted). Survey work began. Attendance at the Minnesota Rural Health conference and The Midwest Rural Assembly.

Third Quarter of 2009: Healthcare provider survey undertaken. With funding for operations very low, WCHPA Board decides to defer meeting until the healthcare purchaser survey work would be completed in November of 2009. It is decided that additional grant writing awaits our knowing the outcomes of national and state initiatives in health care reform.

The change in research coordinator in the Fall of 2008 led to some disruption in our grant writing efforts. Most significantly, the loss of expected funding from the Bremer foundation has slowed the progress of the WCHPA.

2010:

Fourth Quarter of 2009: Modification to MN Care was proposed by WCHPA to eliminate the $10,000 inpatient hospitalization cap and to eliminate the 4 month waiting period to get on MN Care. Monthly meetings were held with WCHPA board as needed.

First Quarter of 2010:

Rural Healthcare forums held in four locations: Alexandria, Willmar, Morris and Montevideo. Bart Finzel from Center for Small Towns and Virginia Wolking from the Center for Rural Affairs facilitated the meetings. Evaluations were filled out and tabulated. We had over 80 participants and it was clear that the public is interested in receiving more information and getting involved somehow.

We met our timeline deadlines. The National Healthcare bill passed just before our forums which allowed us to focus the presentation. It was difficult to get all the information desired in a short timeline, but the discussions were very engaging. We reviewed evaluations and number of participants at the forums. We received good attendance and great feedback.

Funding

In-Kind 5,040.00
Outside 156,500.00
Volunteer 38,628.00
State Special 82,000.00
Total 282,168.00

Leveraged resources

West Central Initiative, Southwest Minnesota Foundation and the Otto Bremer Foundation
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