WILLMAR -- Minnesotans are more willing to take responsibility for their health than they're given credit for, according to the findings in a newly released state report.
The report also uncovered more common ground on the contentious issues surrounding health care reform than is often recognized.
"We heard over and over again that people are willing to make the choices," said Scott Cooper of the Bush Foundation, which partnered with the Citizens League to develop the report.
The findings sum up attitudes, opinions and commentary from more than 1,000 citizens across Minnesota who participated in a four-months'-long process of collecting public input about health care.
A series of two dozen public forums around the state included one held in Willmar this past May. Responses also were collected through an online survey.
The report was released this week to the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force. Task force members are charged with preparing policy recommendations for presentation next year to the Minnesota Legislature and governor.
Public input came from a wide diversity of geography, politics and demographics, Cooper said. "We think it's a good cross-section. We paid a lot of attention to whether we were hearing different things from different parts of the state. ... We got very similar responses on the main themes regardless."
One finding that stood out: Organizers expected Minnesotans would want better, cheaper health care without paying more for it -- but audiences realized there are tradeoffs, Cooper said.
"I was surprised by the degree to which people actually understood there aren't simple answers," he said.
Another prominent finding was that Minnesotans wanted a health care system in which they could actually participate, Cooper said.
One of the refrains was that people felt they were left to cope on their own with a broken system, yet told they should be more engaged, he said. "People just felt like they're not in control. ... Citizens came with a really great vision of a health care system with a symbiotic relationship. People are crying out for a better relationship between consumers and the system."
Participants had a broad view of health that included the role of community environments and policies in promoting better health, according to the report's findings.
They also cared about prevention but believed there's little in the current system that supports it.
The process demonstrated that consensus-building can work and that people want to be involved, Cooper said. "Participants told us in the evaluations that they got a lot out of it and were really engaged."
The Bush Foundation and Citizens League plan to further test the report's conclusions with some additional polling this fall. The Health Care Reform Task Force must have its final recommendations prepared by the end of November.
An important part of developing those recommendations is the input from ordinary citizens, Cooper said. "We think you get the best results when you engage the public in the conversation."