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Excellence in Minnesota health care deserves legislative support

The University of Minnesota graduates 70 percent of our state’s health care professionals. These alumni provide high-quality care in communities across the state. But as our population ages and our needs change, health care education must change as well. The university is poised to meet the challenge, but requires support from the Minnesota Legislature to reach its fullest potential in preparing our state’s health care workforce.

Photo by Patrick O’Leary
Dean E. Johnson

Vital investments in delivering quality health care across Minnesota are high on the U’s legislative request list. These initiatives deserve support.

Replacing outdated and obsolete buildings with a new Health Science Education Facility means students will be better able to work in clinical team-based spaces. We know that clinical teams – physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and other health professionals coming together to achieve patient success – provide the best care. We must train our students to be ready for this environment.

Patricia Simmons

The new facility will be equipped with simulation areas to practice clinical and procedural skills in real-world settings. Classroom technology will allow students to connect with and learn from practitioners, fellow students, patients and communities from across the state and beyond. The facility will allow us to be a leader in interprofessional training and will help position the U to recruit and retain top students and faculty.

The university’s supplemental budget request also includes two investments to enhance and maintain critical health care needs:

The university is requesting state dollars to restore funding for programs formerly supported financially by UCare. UCare did not receive a state contract for Medicaid and other public programs and is no longer able to help fund family practice medicine at the university. The loss of $10.5 million places the university’s statewide clinical training, education, research and patient care at risk.  

With renewed funding from the state to replace those lost UCare dollars, the U will be able to continue work to meet family medicine needs in Duluth, Mankato and across the Twin Cities. Additionally, the School of Dentistry’s Mobile Dental Clinic can remain on the move to communities without access to care, providing much-needed preventive and primary dental care.

To further improve access to quality health care, we are seeking support for the Community University Health Care Clinic in Minneapolis. The clinic provides urban community health care for diverse populations and educates more than 230 Academic Health Center students and residents per year. The Rural Dentist Associate Program – which supports dentistry training sites in underserved communities across the state – is also in need of additional funds.

As Regents, we urge the Minnesota Legislature to make health care a priority this session. Investing in the U’s health enterprise will ensure our state is able to continue meeting Minnesotans’ health care needs.

Dean E. Johnson is the chair and Patricia Simmons is a member of the Board of Regents, University of Minnesota.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/09/2016 - 09:43 am.

    Good to Upgrade

    Maybe it’s never too late; however, we should wonder why such basic service training has not been previously enhanced. We should be serious in such market-based improvement and upgrade.

    Another past problem: “The university is requesting state dollars to restore funding [“loss of $10.5 million”] for programs formerly supported financially by UCare.” I’ve been casually watching such questionable relationships for years.

    What was UCare doing here and elsewhere, functioning as a State-preferred (check its origins and people links) NGO pass-through organization, in part? Such practice was hardly scrutinized until contract awards were better reviewed: UCare lost theirs and is undergoing “mergers of weakness,” in financial world terms. Perhaps the public should know more of such common NGO “back door” practices.

    While many might wish to argue merit and other stuff, we have real public visibility here, at least. Hope the projects work well.

  2. Submitted by Buddy Robinson on 05/09/2016 - 01:14 pm.

    U of M dollars should have always been upfront and legit

    U of M health care does deserve legislative support, but it needs to be upfront and lawful. Neither was the case with the huge subsidies given over the years to U of M by UCare.

    Greater MN Health Care Coalition (GMHCC) has tallied — from CPA audit reports, NAIC reports,and IRS 990 forms — the history of UCare’s quiet donations to U of M’s medical school. From the early 1990s on up, UCare has donated at least $90 million to the U of M.

    Where did the money come from? From huge over-payments by the state to UCare (and the other Health Plans) in its contracts for low income programs like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. Extensive evidence points to health care payments to all of the HMOs having been inflated and falsified, taking extra, unwarranted money from both federal and state funding. GMHCC has tried for ten years to get the state and/or federal governments to audit these expenses and recover billions in over-payments, but we have been repeatedly blocked in those efforts.

    It’s somewhat ironic that all this money was given essentially under the table. UCare was created and spun off by the U of M medical school, and claimed to be totally independent. However, under IRS classifications, the U of M has technically been UCare’s parent organization all along, since a majority of the board members have to be U of M medical school personnel. It’s sort of like the state secretly funneling money to help fund its own state university. This must have seemed much easier than seeking and winning larger appropriations from the legislature.

    Perhaps U of M officials don’t need to fret so much. Now that Fairview has come to own both UCare and Preferred One, don’t be surprised to see a new insurance entity emerge which will resume getting these lucrative state contracts, and the flow to U of M could reappear. It may well be that UCare’s special vulnerability to scrutiny of over-payments from padded rates is what forced it out of the state contracts for 2016.

    -Buddy Robinson, co-coordinator, GMHCC

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/09/2016 - 02:49 pm.

    Thank You

    Your specific information of the “back door(s)” should raise reader eyebrows, I hope.

    While I deferred mention of specific weak players in merger, you have revealed those three I considered.
    Readers should know that Fairview has been a major concern of State regulators for years, more recently fighting its way through the minefield of industry/government changes. Various schemes have failed to strengthen what I have (as both professional and consumer) considered to be the least competent healthcare business operation in these parts. Again…business operation…not care provider.

    Minnesotans of all philosophical sets and income categories should be absolutely disgusted, if not rather enraged, by the many millions of dollars lost or gleaned or transferred to enable such regulatory/financial preferential treatment.

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