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Bipartisan health reform committee to release report today

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WILLMAR — Organizers of a citizen engagement effort are waiting to see how much of the public’s perspective is reflected in a final report on recommendations for health care reform, being released today by Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota Health  Care Reform Task Force.

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Input from citizens was sought earlier this year in a series of more than 40 community meetings across the state, including one conducted in Willmar in May.

For one of the first times, the process gave voice to how ordinary citizens experience the health care system and how they think the system could be changed to help them become healthier, said C. Scott Cooper, director of engagement and communications for the Bush Foundation.

“People haven’t been asked really to sit down and talk about health care from their perspective before,” he said.

The result was a thoughtful and lively dialogue that yielded a broader view of health care than policymakers typically consider, Cooper said. “My hope is that this can somehow be transformed into policymaking.”

Around 1,100 Minnesotans participated in the community meetings, which were facilitated by the Citizens League with support from the Bush Foundation.

A poll also is being conducted to collect additional input from the public. The findings will be released next month.

The governor’s bipartisan task force was asked to consider the perspective from consumers as the final set of recommendations was crafted this fall. The report will be shared with both state administrators and the Minnesota Legislature.

What emerged from listening to consumers this past year was that they’re more willing to make tradeoffs than they’re often given credit for, Cooper said.

Many of them described frustration with the current system and the difficulty of staying well in a system designed primarily to treat illness, he said. “They found it complicated. They don’t understand why it’s complicated. … What people said was they want to take personal responsibility for their health but they wanted help in making it easier to do that.”

Three key points were recommended to the bipartisan task force to help guide its policy recommendations:

n Creating ways for consumers to take a more active role in managing their health and wellness.

n Enabling consumers to make choices within the health care system that enhance their health.

n Encouraging the redesign of institutions and community environments to provide more opportunities for and reinforce healthy habits.

Cooper said he hopes the citizen engagement process will pave the way for similar efforts in the future.

“We will make sure legislators are briefed about this process and what we heard in the process,” he said. “I hope that the administration and the new legislative leadership will look at these favorably.”

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Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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