In response to “A bit of irony in Pawlenty’s op-ed piece on health reform?” (MinnPost, Aug. 3), both current and former AFSCME staffers made several factual errors in characterizing the health-care reforms cited by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in his recent Washington Post commentary.
In the article, former AFSCME Executive Director Peter Benner claimed “it’s a model of what a public option can do — not what a private-sector model can do.”
Let’s be clear — Minnesota Advantage, the state employee insurance program, is not a “public option.”
Benner says, “They [state employees] couldn’t buy it in the private sector.” State employees don’t “buy” coverage. Their employer does. In this case the state of Minnesota negotiated with providers and carriers to put in place incentives that reward good decision-making by our employees. The result is lower health-care costs for the entire group. Minnesota’s program is a model of how an employer — any employer — can provide cost-effective choices using private sector providers, allowing people to keep their current doctors.
Second, the notion that 120,000 employees and dependents is not a big group is ludicrous. The state helped create the Minnesota Smart Buy Alliance, which uses set uniform performance standards, cost/quality reporting requirements, and technology demands on health plans and providers to favor those that are certified for highest quality.
The public and private sector members of the Smart Buy Alliance represent about 60 percent of state residents. You don’t need all 5 million Minnesotans in a plan to “bend the curve.” You do need other large employers copying the market-driven, patient-centered and quality-focused reform the state designed. This is exactly what the Minnesota Smart Buy Alliance does.
Benner also comments that if we thought this was a good idea we would have proposed adding more people to it. It wouldn’t make sense to add people on state government-subsidized health-care programs to the state employee pool because we wouldn’t have the same flexibility we have with state employees. With our employees we can offer personal wellness programs and measure and manage use of the program and results, since the state is self-insured.
The comment that Washington Democrats are proposing the “same thing” that Gov. Pawlenty has accomplished in Minnesota is simply not true. Democrats in Washington are proposing dramatically expanded coverage, but reducing choices, while ignoring important reforms to improve quality and limit increasing costs. Minnesota measures exacting data on clinical outcomes that allow us to hold down costs and provide employees with choices that ultimately pass along the saving to them.
In addition, the health-care reform law signed by Gov. Pawlenty in 2008 puts Minnesota on a path toward meaningful payment reform across the board, creating a market where quality and cost are transparent and high quality, high value is rewarded. Nowhere in the Democratic plan do you see a “Minnesota Community Measurement” team that reports on results or the type of cost and quality transparency our 2008 reforms will bring.
Members of Congress would be well-served to start over and emulate the approach taken on a bipartisan basis in Minnesota. Hopefully that’s the message they’ll be hearing throughout their August recess.
Brian McClung is the director of communications in the Office of Governor Tim Pawlenty.