House Dems want explanations for rising health care costs for poor

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Democrats in the Minnesota House say the health insurance plans that take care of the state's Medicaid patients need to explain the skyrocketing cost of health care for Minnesota's poor.

The state pays premiums for care from organizations like Medica and Health Partners. Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, said he wants them to submit more detailed accounts of what that care costs.

"Since 2006, our managed care payments have increased by 75 percent in Minnesota," Hosch said. "We have to ask ourselves why is that growth exceeding medical inflation and enrollment?"

Hosch also proposed a 15 percent cut in state payments to health maintenance organizations for Medicaid patients.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, who chairs the House health committee, said he agrees with some of the proposal.

"We don't have good data and good oversight of where those billions of dollars are being spent and that has been a deep concern for a long time," Gottwalt said. "How are those tax dollars being spent on behalf of Minnesotans?"

But Gottwalt said Hosch's provision that calls for a 15 percent cut to health plan payments wasn't practical. He said it would only result in higher costs for other plan customers.

The Minnesota Council of Health Plans said they already submit lots of information to the Department of Human Services.

Spokesman Eileen Smith said the costs are driven by the changing patient load the state sends to plans. She said such a cut would likely make the plans look at paring back benefits.

"You have to look at not only the increase in payments to plans, but the increase in enrollment and the chances in types of enrollment and the increases in medical care spending that follow right along with the increases in payments to the managed care plans," Smith said.

Smith said the state's Senior Health Options program, for the elderly poor, has been particularly expensive.