Friday, August 10, 2012

What Minnesotans are saying about improving health care

Minnesotans who participated in a series of community conversations this summer want an affordable health care system, more information to make choices, and communities that support healthy choices.

The Bush Foundation and Citizens League  recently completed a Citizen Solutions initiative around health care that involved  about 40 community conversations with more than 1,000 Minnesotans, as well as online discussions with more than 4,100 Minnesotans. The results of the four-month initiative, funded by the Bush Foundation, were shared with the Governor’s Health Care ReformTask Force on August 6. Those who attended the community conversations held a range of political beliefs,  according to the report’s appendix.

Participants said they wanted to be co-creators and co-managers of their health care, and they needed better information to succeed at that task, according to the report, “Public Conversations & PublicSolutions: Making Health and Health Care Better in Minnesota.”

They were willing to make trade-offs.  When asked about rights and responsibilities, less than one percent suggested unfettered access to care should be part of a citizen’s health rights. Participants reached the greatest consensus on the points that citizens have the right to affordable care and that they are responsible for practicing healthy behaviors.

They would like to see employers, families, communities and state decision makers support them in assuming ownership of their health. Suggestions included improving environments so that physical activity is more accessible and making healthy food more accessible and affordable.

Participants also supported policies that would help citizens experience the true costs of their behaviors, such as taxes on sodas, tobacco, or other unhealthy choices that contribute to preventable disease.

They also wanted an affordable health care system but they understood that the health care system alone does not define good health.

As for the health care system, they identified the lack of affordability as the biggest challenge, followed by the fact that the system is complicated and confusing, and doesn’t focus enough on healthy living and prevention.

In terms of cutting costs, participants prioritized cutting administrative costs, preventing avoidable conditions and unnecessary care, and improving the coordination of care.

When asked what they saw as the most effective way to create change, about one-third of attendees picked focusing on making Minnesotans more knowledgeable health consumers and one-fourth of attendees suggested focusing on community-based strategies that make healthy choices easier.