Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Percent of Minnesotans without health insurance drops to historic low

A new report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the University of Minnesota finds that Minnesota cut its uninsured rate nearly in half between 2013 and 2015, and the rate of Minnesotans without health insurance has now reached an all-time low.

The report cites recent health reform efforts and an improved economy as key factors that drove down the state’s uninsured rate, as more than 200,000 Minnesotans – including 35,000 children – gained health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2015.

“Minnesota has a history of leading the nation in providing health insurance for our residents and workers,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Even so, 2015 marked an unprecedented advancement for the health and security of Minnesota families – particularly those who had previously been lost in the gaps of our system.”

The percent of Minnesotans without health insurance fell to 4.3 percent in 2015 – the lowest rate in state history – according to the survey conducted by MDH and the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

“The drop in the number of Minnesotans without health insurance is great news for our state,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper. “These findings demonstrate that efforts in our state to improve the quality and affordability of health care for the people of Minnesota are making a difference.”

During the same time, a decade-long decline in the rate of Minnesotans who receive health insurance through an employer was halted. The percent of Minnesotans who have employer coverage remained steady, while the percent of Minnesotans purchasing health insurance on their own rose slightly. About 10 percent of Minnesotans reported getting their coverage through MNsure.

“Today’s news confirms that more Minnesotans are getting health insurance coverage. This is great news for Minnesota,” said MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole. “However, our work is not done yet.

Today’s report shows 22 percent of Minnesota’s uninsured are potentially eligible for advanced premium tax credits available only through MNsure. We do not want Minnesotans to leave money on the table, and will do everything we can to make sure they are getting the coverage they need and can take advantage of the financial supports available to make it affordable.”

All groups of Minnesotans, regardless of income, racial or ethnic group or age, reported increases in health insurance coverage. For example, uninsured rates for Hispanic/Latino Minnesotans fell by nearly 200 percent from 34.8 percent in 2013 to 11.7 percent in 2015. However, Commissioner Ehlinger notes the disparity in insurance coverage persists between white Minnesotans and American Indians and Minnesotans of color.

“While it is encouraging to see across-the-board progress in reducing the total number of people who go without health insurance, we still see troubling gaps among racial and ethnic groups,” Commissioner Ehlinger said. “These disparities threaten the health of our communities and our state as a whole, and we need to continue to work on reducing them. All Minnesotans deserve an equal opportunity to be healthy, and access to quality health care services is an important part of that.”

Health insurance is designed to provide access to health services and protection from high medical bills. In 2015, more than three-quarters of Minnesotans with health insurance reported their insurance protected them from high medical bills, and 93 percent of Minnesotans felt confident they could get the health care they need. Nonetheless, two in 10 Minnesotans still reported not getting needed care because of cost in the past year, a rate unchanged from 2013.

“Monitoring the extent to which health insurance access translates into access to health care will be important as more Minnesotans gain coverage,” said Kathleen Call, a lead researcher on the study and professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
The MDH report is available online from the Health Economics Program.

U of M evaluation finds Health Care Homes saved $1 billion over 5 year period

A new University of Minnesota evaluation of Health Care Homes found that over a five year evaluation period the model – emphasizing collaboration among care providers, families and patients – saved Medicaid and Medicare approximately $1 billion. At the same time, clinics participating in a health care home model of care outperformed other clinics on quality measures.

The results come from a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) funded evaluation of health care homes done in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) led by investigator Douglas Wholey, Ph.D., professor of health policy and management from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Division of Health Policy & Management.
A summary of the 2016 U of M evaluation can be found at Health Care Homes, Five Year Program Evaluation (PDF).

The complete 2016 U of M evaluation can be found at Evaluation of the State of Minnesota's Health Care Homes Initiative Evaluation Report for Years 2010-2014 (PDF).
Additional findings suggest potentially significant savings if the Medicaid, Medicare, and Dual Eligible patients who were not in a health care home during this period were in a health care home.

“Having had the opportunity to closely observe Minnesota’s Health Care Home initiative during our evaluation of it, I am impressed by the positive results, thorough planning, and effective implementation,” said Wholey.

The health care home program is a cornerstone of Minnesota’s 2008 bipartisan health reform efforts. Within a health care home, primary care providers, families, and patients work in partnership to improve health outcomes and quality of life for patients, including those with chronic conditions or disabilities. The Health Care Homes program is an effort to transform primary care. Certified health care homes strive to place patients and families at the center of their care and provide the right care at the right time and right place. Health care homes use a team approach that gives patients and caregivers access to health care services and support.

Currently, MDH has certified 361 clinics or 54 percent of all primary care clinics in Minnesota. To be certified, clinics meet a rigorous set of requirements related to their ability to provide care that is coordinated, patient-centered, and team-based. About 3.6 million Minnesotans receive care in clinics certified as health care homes.

“These findings show the value of focusing on care coordination and disease management within the broad context of a patient’s life and community,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger, M.D. “Taking this approach can help us achieve the goal of improving quality while also reducing costs.”
The University of Minnesota study of Health Care Homes is the second of two legislatively mandated reports. The initial report at U of M evaluates health care homes, finds better access to care, higher quality and lower costs was released in February 2014.


The report, which evaluates the health care home initiative from 2010 through 2014, analyzed Medicaid and Medicare claims data comparing the use and cost of services between certified health care home clinics and non-health care homes. Results include:
  • Medical costs for enrollees who could be attributed to a health care home clinic were 9 percent less than enrollees who did not have a health care home as their primary care clinic.  
  • Health care homes cost 12 percent less for Medicaid, 3 percent less for Dual Eligible enrollees, but were cost neutral for Medicare enrollees.
  • Health care homes were less expensive in four categories of healthcare spending: inpatient hospital admissions, hospital outpatient visits, skilled nursing facilities, and pharmacy.
  • Racial disparities were significantly smaller for Medicaid, Medicare, and Dual Eligible beneficiaries served by health care homes versus non- health care homes for most measures, with the exception of African American-White differences in Medicare, which tended to be slightly larger in health care homes.
  • On a broad range of clinical quality measures, HCH clinics outperform non- health care homes clinics.
The University of Minnesota relied on analysis of claims data from the Medicaid and Medicare programs, analysis of data from the Statewide Quality Reporting and Measurement System (SQRMS) collected by Minnesota Community Measurement, interviews with key stakeholders and certified Health Care Homes to assess the effect of the health care homes program on access, cost, quality, and patient experience and the transformation of clinics to being a health care home.

Innovative reform initiative now serves more than 340,000 Minnesotans in public health care programs

The Integrated Health Partnerships (IHP), Minnesota’s groundbreaking approach to delivering quality health care more efficiently for low-income people, continues to grow across the state, now encompassing 19 provider groups and more than 340,000 enrollees in Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program and MinnesotaCare, a program for residents who do not have access to affordable health care coverage.
“Our nation-leading Integrated Health Partnerships initiative shows that it’s possible to lower the cost of care while maintaining and improving quality of care for patients,” said Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper. “It’s encouraging to see such strong interest from providers across Minnesota, both those who are joining and those who are continuing to participate in this initiative.”
This month, three new provider groups joined the Department of Human Services’ IHP initiative, including providers serving people in medically underserved or high-need areas, providers serving children with complex medical conditions, and providers serving rural areas in Greater Minnesota. Contracts with the three new provider groups began on Jan. 1, 2016.
Also this year, six Integrated Health Partnerships provider groups that helped launch the program in 2013 opted to continue for a second three-year cycle. North Memorial, one of the original providers, expanded its participation to include affiliate partners and clinics. With the addition of new provider systems and growth in the 16 provider groups who joined before 2016, the IHP now covers more than 340,000 Medical Assistance enrollees. This growth puts DHS well on its way to a goal of extending the IHP and comparable value-based reforms to half of all Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees – about 500,000 people – by the end of 2018.
The new providers include:
  • Allina Health, Allina and its subsidiaries provide a full range of primary and specialty health care services across a wide geographic range, with more than 750 practitioners who also assist patients with preventative health by identifying health risks, managing chronic illness and achieving overall better health. Allina Health participated in part in earlier rounds of the IHP program through the Northwest Alliance in partnership with HealthPartners, and with their Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute serving people with complex neurological conditions. Beginning in January 2016, the full Allina system joined the IHP initiative.
  • Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, an independent, non-profit children’s hospital serving children who have complex conditions such as cerebral palsy, rare disorders such as osteogenesis imperfecta, and traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord. In an effort to save families the time and expense of frequent travel to St. Paul, Gillette operates 18 outpatient clinics throughout Greater Minnesota. These clinics give families access to many of the specialized services they need, in their home communities.
  • Integrity Health Network (IHN), a multispecialty independent practice association comprised of clinics and facilities throughout a mostly rural service areas.
The IHP initiative has already delivered significant savings to Minnesota taxpayers. In its first two years, savings totaled more than $76 million, benefiting taxpayers and providers. Preliminary results for 2015, the initiative’s third year, will be announced later this year.
About the Integrated Health Partnerships Initiative
The IHP demonstration prioritizes the delivery of higher quality and lower cost health care, encouraging providers to focus on delivering efficient and effective health care and preventive services to reach mutually agreed-upon health goals. In contrast, the traditional payment system pays providers for the volume of care they deliver, rather than the quality of care they provide. In the IHP model, providers who meet a threshold for savings are eligible for a share of the savings. Beginning in the second year of participation, some providers also share the downside risk if costs are higher than projected.
The IHP initiative is a key component of a $45 million federal State Innovation Model (SIM) grant, which is helping to drive health care reform in Minnesota. Several IHP participants have also received SIM grants for their innovative efforts to improve health care

Friday, July 31, 2015

State health care contracting reforms save taxpayers $650 million

Gov. Mark Dayton and Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson announced July 28 that Minnesota’s first statewide competitive bidding process for managed care contracts, and other contract adjustments, saved taxpayers nearly $650 million. The savings come from both contracting reform (nearly $450 million) and a contract settle-up provision allowing DHS to recoup unspent health insurance dollars ($200 million). These public programs provide more than 800,000 Minnesotans high-quality health coverage. With today’s savings, the Dayton Administration has implemented cost saving reforms that have resulted in more than $1.65 billion in savings for taxpayers since 2011.
More information is in a news release about the managed care contracts on the Governor's Office website.

Mental health center adds primary care to become health care home

Minnesota has 382 medical clinics that are certified as health care homes, but Zumbro Valley Health Center is the state’s first community mental health center to become a health care home.

MDH certified Zumbro Valley Health Center as a health care home in May, after it completed required certification steps such as adding primary care services. The organization is the first mental health center in Minnesota to achieve this designation.

“It’s exciting to see a mental health center deciding to become a health care home,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “A key opportunity for improving health care in Minnesota is to break down some of the divisions between physical and mental health so we can effectively coordinate care and treat the whole person.”

MDH and DHS are jointly responsible for the development and implementation of Minnesota’s Health Care Homes initiative.

Minnesota’s health care home model offers an innovative, team-based approach to primary care in which providers, families, patients, and other team members work in partnership to improve the health and quality of life for individuals, especially those with chronic and complex conditions. Health care homes put patients and families at the center of their care, develop proactive approaches through care plans and offer more continuity of care through increased care coordination between providers and community resources.

“This is a significant step forward in reducing health disparities for people with mental illness,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Care should be accessible and equitable for all Minnesotans and we congratulate Zumbro Valley Health Center for leading the way.”

Findings from a number of national studies indicate people with severe mental illness die as much as 25 years earlier than the public. The leading causes of these premature deaths are physical diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer. One contributing factor is that many with mental illness do not routinely see their primary care physicians for physical health screenings.

As a certified health care home, Zumbro Valley Health Center will provide integrated care services to individuals diagnosed with one or more major chronic conditions. This includes care coordination services to enhance each individual's well-being by organizing timely access to resources and necessary services to ensure continuity of care.

"Since launching our primary care clinic, we have worked with nearly 200 people with co-morbid conditions," said Zumbro Valley Health Center Chief Executive Officer Dave Cook. "A number of these individuals have significant medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or obesity along with their mental illness or addiction diagnoses." Cook added there is no additional cost for this care and staff have begun speaking with clients who are eligible for health care home services.
Health Care Homes were developed as part of Minnesota's health reform legislation in May 2008. In 2014, the University of Minnesota released research that shows the clinics’ collaborative, patient-centered model of health care delivery reduced costs and outperformed other clinics on quality measures. 

Zumbro Valley Health Center delivers systematic coordination of health care to people with mental health, medical and addiction disorders. Zumbro Valley Health Center is a private, non-profit organization serving Southeast Minnesota.

Novel MDH study yields first statewide estimate of potentially preventable health care events

For the first time, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has analyzed the state’s emergency department visits, hospital admissions and hospital readmissions and found that over the course of a year nearly 1.3 million of those patient visits costing nearly $2 billion were potentially preventable.
MDH used 2012 claims data from the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database (MN APCD) and data analytics developed by Minnesota’s 3M Company to estimate the volume of potentially preventable patient visits to hospitals and emergency departments.  Minnesota is the first state in the nation to successfully conduct such an analysis using APCD data and set a baseline estimate for potentially preventable hospital visits.

“Minnesota has one of the most efficient and cost-effective health care systems in the nation but this study shows we still have room for improvement,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Equipped with these findings, we will work with providers and community leaders to ensure patients more consistently receive the right care, in the right place at the right time.”

In this context, potentially preventable health care events are defined as hospital and emergency department visits that patients possibly could have avoided under the right circumstances such as timely access to primary care, improved medication management, greater health and health system literacy, and better coordination of care among clinicians, social service providers, patients and families.  Examples include a visit to an emergency department for a urinary tract infection that could have been treated in primary care or a readmission to a hospital because of poor follow up care after a discharge.
Volume and cost associated with potentially preventable health care events in Minnesota, 2012These 2012 patient visits consumed about $1.9 billion in health care spending by employers, health plans and individuals. This accounted for about 4.8 percent of total health care spending in the state that year. This volume of spending does not, however, represent real potential savings because not all identified events were actually clinically preventable and preventing them may require new investments elsewhere in the system.

“Even for those events that may be actually preventable, the best opportunity for prevention may exist farther upstream than the points of care included in this study,” said MDH’s State Health Economist Stefan Gildemeister. “Though we do see a substantial opportunity for cost savings in the health care system, the best prevention for many of these events may lie outside of the health care delivery system altogether.”

A large share of 2012 emergency department visits – 1.2 million, or about two out of three visits – was potentially preventable. These visits cost $1.3 billion. Many patients were seen more than once for a condition that was potentially preventable.  For example, as many as 50,000 Minnesotans had four or more potentially preventable ED visits in a calendar year. Of those potentially preventable ED visits, infections of the upper respiratory tract (9 percent), abdominal pain (7 percent), and musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diagnoses such as back pain (7 percent) were the most prevalent diagnoses. Medicaid members made up a disproportionately high percentage of overall emergency department visits.  In 2012, Medicaid patients made up 14 percent of the population, but accounted for 40 percent of ED visits in the state.

Nearly 50,000 events were potentially preventable hospital admissions totaling $373 million. The top three conditions for potentially preventable admissions included: pneumonia, excluding pneumonia related to bronchiolitis and respiratory syncytial virus (13 percent), heart failure (12.1 percent), and COPD (8.1 percent).

About 22,000 hospital readmissions costing $237 million were found to be potentially preventable. For readmissions, the three most frequent conditions account for approximately 15.2 percent of all readmissions and include heart failure (6.6 percent), blood infection (septicemia) and disseminated infection (5.1 percent), and major depressive disorder and other unspecified psychoses (3.5 percent).

“Minnesota’s providers, including Hennepin Health, are very focused on improving outcomes and reducing high-cost care that is not good for patients,” said Ross Owen, director of Hennepin Health. “This work requires approaches that look not just at coordinating medical care but at addressing social factors and preventing these events from happening in the first place. This MDH report is an important statewide step toward understanding that opportunity.”

The report includes a number of strategies for reducing potentially preventable events that Minnesota providers, State agencies, and other stakeholders are already pursing to reduce potentially preventable events.
  • Ensuring all patients have access to timely, high-quality preventive care in outpatient settings, and a usual source of care or medical home
  • Ensuring consistent and strong engagement by patients and families, with a focus on the availability of information or guidance about preventive care and treatment that is accessible to patients with varying levels of health literacy and in multiple languages
  • Improving coordination of care across settings of care, in particular between long-term care settings and hospitals
  • Making use of emerging providers, such as community paramedics or community health workers, to provide care coordination and connect vulnerable patients to social supports that can help them avoid hospitalizations or ED visits
  • Ensuring that secure electronic exchange of clinical information occurs effectively and in real time across settings and provider systems
  • As recommended by the RARE campaign, improving comprehensive discharge planning, medication management and transition care support/transition communications
The study was conducted using data from the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database (MN APCD), which includes data from both public and private insurance payers. Minnesota is one of a small number of states to collect health insurance data on such a comprehensive scale, and the first to use its APCD to conduct a comprehensive analysis of these events. The study also employed patient classification methodologies and analytic services from 3M Health Information Systems, a business of 3M Company.

For more information, see Health Economics Program.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Minnesota selects 12 communities for over $4 million in accountable health awards

Twelve Minnesota Accountable Communities for Health (ACH) are poised to demonstrate how health care and community organizations can work together to create profound change in population health. Minnesota's Commissioner of Health and Commissioner of Human Services selected these Accountable Communities for Health in December to each receive a $370,000 grant, out of a total grant amount of $4.4 million.

Minnesota is testing the ACH model as part of its $45 million State Innovation Model grant from the federal government. Researchers estimate that health care accounts for only about 20 percent of a population's health, while modifiable community, social, and economic factors contribute 80 percent.

Keeping a person healthy, especially a person with complex chronic conditions, often requires a dedicated team of clinical and community providers. The awards will support these ACHs' efforts to promote health and improve health care by strengthening clinical and community partnerships.

"By integrating different kinds of care, the Accountable Communities for Health model holds significant promise," said Lucinda Jesson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. "A broad range of community partners – primary care, behavioral health, social services, long-term care and public health – work together to improve the quality and effectiveness of care for those who need it. This can transform how we are delivering care in Minnesota."

To test the model, the commissioners selected communities with different experiences providing accountable care. Key components of accountable care include value-based payment arrangements, community and provider collaboration, care coordination, population health measurement, management and evaluation and integration across provider settings.

"It is exciting to see public health, communities, health and human service providers and so many others step forward to form these partnerships in an effort to improve the health of Minnesotans," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger.
The participating ACH sites represent population and geographic diversity:
  • UCare/Federally Qualified Health Center Urban Health Network (FUHN), Minneapolis.
  • Vail Place/North Memorial, Hopkins.
  • Hennepin County/Hennepin Health, Minneapolis.
  • Generations Health Care Initiatives, Duluth.
  • New Ulm Medical Center, New Ulm.
  • Otter Tail County Public Health, Fergus Falls.
  • Allina Health Systems/Northwest Metro Alliance, Minneapolis.
  • CentraCare Health Foundation, St. Cloud.
  • Southern Prairie Community Care, Marshall.
  • Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota/Bluestone Physician Services, St. Paul.
  • Unity Family Health Care, Little Falls.
  • North Country Community Health Services, Bagley.
Shelly Zuzek, Clinical Services Director at Vail Place, a leader in mental health services, says their model for this partnership is rooted in team-based care and involves the collaboration of a diverse set of professionals who will work to engage patients in multiple ways. "Part of our funding will cover costs associated with a community paramedic who will work directly with our care team to support patients in their homes and in community-based settings," Zuzek said. "This is an example of the potential we have to impact people as they transition across the health care system and into the community. We look forward to seeing how this collaboration improves the overall health of the populations we are targeting."

Otter Tail County Public Health has been working with partners in their community to develop a "Rural Health Model that Works." This model of care embeds public health practices of prevention, promotion and protection working in partnership with consumers, health care providers, and community organizations. County Public Health Director and CHS Administrator Diane Thorson, said they have used community conversations to learn what is important to their communities. "Our community values choice rather than mandates. Choices allow for engagement and empowerment of individuals to select treatment plans based upon evidence-based practices, community resources, and personal lifestyle," Thorson said. "We will hold our community and provider systems accountable for improving health outcomes."

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) awarded Minnesota a State Innovation Model (SIM) testing grant of over $45 million to use across a three-year period ending in December 2016. As a joint effort between the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Human Services with support from Governor Mark Dayton's office, Minnesota is using the grant money to test new ways of delivering and paying for health care using the Minnesota Accountable Health Model framework. The goal of this model is to improve health in communities, provide better care and lower health care costs.