Friday, March 23, 2012

"Local lunch day" shows benefits of 2008 health reforms

In March, Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger visited Woodland Elementary School in Eagan to get an on-the-ground look at some of the effects of Minnesota’s landmark health care reform law passed in 2008.

Back in 2008, Minnesota policy makers recognized that in order to contain spiraling health care costs, investments in prevention were needed. With bipartisan support, Minnesota passed a ground-breaking health reform law that included SHIP. Two-year SHIP grants were awarded on July 1, 2009 to all 53 community health boards and nine of 11 tribal governments. Grants were awarded through a competitive process for statewide investments of $20 million in 2010 and $27 million in 2011.

That effort has resulted in significant changes in places like Dakota County and Woodland Elementary School in Eagan.

Woodland Elementary School in Eagan is one of the many schools partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health to improve the local economy and school lunches by using locally grown foods. The school has taken advantage of several state initiatives, such as Great Trays, Farm to School, and Safe Routes to School.

These programs have helped the school to improve its lunches. Ehlinger joined second-graders for the school’s “local lunch day,” that included fruits, broccoli, and a serving of wheat berry salad made from whole-grain wheat grown locally by Indian Harvest of Bemidji. He visited a classroom to talk about nutrition and to watch a presentation by Indian Harvest Chef Coleen Donnelly, who created the wheat berry salad recipe and specializes in making healthy meals that are popular with kids.

The SHIP program recently filed a report with the Legislature that found that during the program’s first two years, Farm to School efforts are increasing access to local produce in at least 367 schools and 22 school districts across Minnesota, serving more than 200,000 students.

In addition, at least 117 schools serving 77,000 students, across the state are actively engaged in implementing Safe Routes to School, which increases opportunities and support for youth to walk or bike to school.

With childhood obesity rates tripling over the past three decades, action is needed and improving school lunches is key strategy for fighting this epidemic.

“Obesity is one of the most urgent health challenges facing our state and nation today,” Ehlinger said. “To fight, obesity we need to invest in children’s nutrition, and Woodland school is a great example of the health department, local public health officials, and schools working together to provide children nutritious food that tastes great.”

MN AARP conducts Minnesota health insurance exchange survey

In March, AARP Minnesota released the findings of a public opinion poll showing broad support in Minnesota for a state designed health insurance marketplace.

The survey found that two‐thirds of Minnesotans support the creation of a state run health insurance exchange and 74% want that exchange to negotiate competitive prices for consumers.

Here are some of the top-line results of the survey.

  • 83% of respondents feel the Governor and state legislators should work to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to affordable health care coverage,
  • 74% want consumers to make up the majority of the governing board, and 
  • 74% support an exchange that negotiates on behalf of individuals and small businesses.

The Governor's Health Care Reform Task Force is currently working with the Citizens League and the Bush Foundation to engage citizens and businesses around Minnesota to help define the values and priorities for health reform in Minnesota, including discussions about a health insurance exchange.The Citizens League will hold a series of online-forums and in-person workshops around the state this spring and summer.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is currently conducting exchange-related activities including regular meetings of advisory and technical workgroups.

States have until January 1, 2013 to create their own health insurance exchanges or the federal government will establish one, to be available to consumers beginning in 2014.  The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Task Force will advise on the design and development of a Minnesota-made Health Insurance Exchange.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Help Minnesota define Minnesota's insurance exchange - March 14

The Citizens League and the Bush Foundation are leading an effort to engage citizens and businesses around Minnesota in defining values and priorities for health reform in our state.  In the spring and summer of 2012, they will be traveling around the state to bring citizens into this discussion with a series of in-person workshops and online forums.

The first test workshop is on March 14, 2012.

See the Citizens League website for more information on registration.

Minnesota's SHIP program looks back on first two years

Minnesota's nationally recognized Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) has shown progress towards improving conditions linked to better health by partnering with hundreds of schools, clinics and workplaces across Minnesota, according to a report submitted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to the Legislature in March.

In communities across the state local SHIP efforts have launched new partnerships with businesses, farmers, schools, community groups, chambers of commerce, hospitals, health plans, city planners, county boards, tribal officials and more. These partners have successfully implemented changes in schools, health care systems, workplaces and at the broader community level that help assure the opportunity for better health for more Minnesotans. Click here to see the entire report, The Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program SHIP Progress Brief - Year 2

"We are impressed by how Minnesota's businesses, schools, and communities have partnered with us and rallied around SHIP's goal of improving health by fostering and encouraging healthy choices for kids and adults alike," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner of Health. The report reviews the program's first two years that ended June 30, 2011. SHIP was included in Minnesota's bipartisan health care reform legislation passed in 2008 as a strategy for curbing rising health care costs through prevention efforts.

SHIP's Year Two Highlights

    • SHIP has helped over 870 employers lead worksite wellness initiatives, reaching over 138,000 employees across the state.
    • Farm to School efforts are under way to increase access to local produce in at least 367 schools and 22 school districts across Minnesota, serving more than 200,000 students.
    • Farmers markets increase access to fruits and vegetables, a key component of healthy eating. During the first two years of SHIP, 160 new farmers markets have opened in Minnesota, an increase of 95 percent.
    • Over 110 schools, serving more than 77,000 students, are actively engaged in Safe Routes to School efforts that increase opportunities and support for youth to walk or bike to school.
    • 31 post-secondary schools are working to have tobacco-free campuses.
    • Approximately 255 cities are working to improve walkability and bikeability in their communities.
    • Over 500 child care sites have worked to improve nutrition, serving over 8500 children.
    • Over 900 child care sites are working on implementing practices to increase physical activity, serving over 20,000 children.
    • To prevent tobacco smoke exposure, six cities have adopted tobacco-free parks policies, and 14 additional cities are currently working on this strategy.
    • 227 apartment buildings have adopted smoke free policies. Another 142 are working toward it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Health Care Reform Task Force launches engagement effort

The Health Care Reform Task Force is partnering with Minnesota foundations, businesses, and community organizations to engage Minnesotans about the future of health care in Minnesota.

The Citizens League will manage much of the process, hiring staff and consultants to coordinate the project, and taking responsibility for building a broader coalition. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and

TakeAction Minnesota have already been recruited to participate in the project, which will include regional meetings across the state this summer and continue through 2014.

Funding for this work will be provided by a group of Minnesota-based foundations including the Bush Foundation, the Blandin Foundation and the Minneapolis Foundation. Click here to read more.

Health plans, providers, and citizens comment on essential benefit set

The Departments of Health, Commerce, and Human Services received more than 70 pages of comments from a wide range of stakeholders regarding establishing an essential benefit set as part of health care reform. The Minnesota departments requested comments in response to an Essential Health Benefits Bulletin released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in December.

How will health care home outcomes be measured in 2012?

On January 14, 2012, the Commissioner of Health issued a letter that describes the Health Care Home outcome measures for 2012. Medical groups participating as certified health care homes will continue to submit measurement data to Minnesota Community Measurement (MNCM). This data will be used for benchmarking, re-certification and for overall evaluation of the health care homes initiative.
Health care homes are expected to participate in data collection for the following measurement activities in 2012:
  • Optimal Vascular Care
  • Optimal Diabetes Care
  • Depression Remission at 6 months
  • Optimal Asthma Care
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Patient Experience Survey
These measures are aligned with the Minnesota Statewide Quality Reporting and Measurement System with the addition of Health Care Home specific risk tiering data where applicable.
In addition, the cost measure - 30-day, All Cause Hospital Readmission - has been approved. Initially, cost data will be provided through Medicaid and Medicare claims. This measure will eventually be aligned with the CMS national standards and, where appropriate, with the work of the Reducing Avoidable Readmissions Effectively (RARE) collaborative.
These measures are part of the Health Care Home Outcome Measurement system recommended by the Health Care Homes Performance Measurement Advisory Work Group, a public-private stakeholder group.
The work group’s recommendations are available online the week of February 6, 2012 at  For more information, contact Cherylee Sherry, planner for the Health Care Homes Initiative at 651-201-3769 or