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Minnesota Health Care Experts to Travel to Germany, Examine Quality and Cost Optimization

June 14, 2012

With health care costs continuing to rise and states pressed for effective solutions, a high-ranking delegation of health care experts from Minnesota and Washington, D.C. will meet in Berlin June 17 - 23 for a seminar on health care policy that compares the United States and German systems. The trip is organized by the University of Minnesota’s Center for German and European Studies in cooperation with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health.

After implementing the first phase of insurance reform contained in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), many states, including Minnesota, are moving toward establishing health care insurance exchanges. Minnesota has been a longtime leader in assuring quality, cost-effectiveness, and access to the state’s citizens. Minnesota leaders hope to continue that distinction by building an effective insurance exchange.

Germany’s nonprofit statutory health insurance system covers 90% of Germany’s population. Based on private providers who operate independently within a state-supervised regulatory framework, Germany’s system is an insurance exchange writ large. Germany has provided high-quality universal health care for its citizens since 1883, when its conservative chancellor Otto von Bismarck became the unlikeliest person to establish the world’s first national health care system.

Why Germany?

For anyone who believes in balancing the role of government and the market, the Germans provide an interesting case study. Recent reforms by the conservative-libertarian government coalition have stressed competition, cost effectiveness, and quality. In Germany, legislation was passed to contain rising costs for employer provided benefits and to reorganize pricing for new drugs. The German AMNOG law dramatically lowers the country’s drug expenditures. Fee schedules for physicians in the statutory system are another area of focus. Recent data confirm that Germany’s health care reforms are achieving good results: everyone is covered, medical bankruptcies are unheard of, insurers compete successfully in a not-for-profit environment. The nonprofit health insurance industry finished the year with a 20 billion Euro surplus in 2011.

Among the many provisions of Congress’ 2010 Affordable Care Act is the creation of state-based health insurance exchanges that by 2014 will integrate over 30 million previously uninsured citizens into the states’ healthcare systems. How to structure those new marketplaces, how to shape the health insurance products patients will be offered and how to create tighter connections between quality and cost are central questions. In the United States, drug costs alone amount to 10 percent of total health care expenditures. Germany’s health care costs are about half the U.S. per capita figure.

Who is Attending?

The 18-member delegation consists of elected and government officials, academics, providers and consultants who are actively involved in health care reform efforts at the state and federal levels, including:

  • Yvonne Pretter Solon, Minn. Lt. Governor
  • Lauren Gilchrist, special adviser to Minn. Gov. Dayton on health reform
  • Scott Leitz, Minnesota human services assistant commissioner for health care administration
  • Tony Lourey, Minnesota state senator
  • Joe Atkins and Erin Murphy, Minnesota state representatives
  • Julie Brunner, executive director of Minnesota Council of Health Plans
  • Frank Cerra, M.D., medical school, University of Minnesota
  • Jim Chase, president, Minn. Community Measurement
  • Kevin Goodno, Frederikson & Byron government relations chair
  • Fred Morrison, law school, University of Minnesota
  • Connie Perpich, CGES advisory board and Planned Parenthood-Minn., No. Dak., So. Dak.
  • Stephen Schondelmeyer, U of M Prime Institute
  • Patricia Simmons, M.D., Mayo Clinic; University of Minnesota Regent
  • Brenda Sheingold, school of nursing, George Washington University
  • Steven Sheingold, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The seminar is a special project of the University of Minnesota’s Center for German and European Studies and a group of international partners including Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics, and the German Academic Exchange Service. Funding is provided through a special German grant that fosters transatlantic exchange and commemorates George Marshall.

The interdisciplinary Center for German and European Studies at the University of Minnesota is one of six centers of excellence created in the United States with German government support. Since 2005, it has hosted the annual “American & German Health Care Forum” to foster health policy exchange on best practices between top-level U.S. and German health care experts. Stakeholders from all areas in the health policy field participate. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health is a founding cooperating partner. It is the only such cooperation in the United States.

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