Doctors’ meeting to address managed care, tobacco funds, public health

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Some of the resolutions to be considered this week by the Minnesota Medical Association sound like a doctor’s dream come true.
Patients could sue managed health care organizations. A physician tax would be replaced with tobacco settlement funds to cover the uninsured. Workplace smoking would be banned.
Managed care, use of the state’s $6.1 billion in tobacco settlement money and public health issues are among more than 70 resolutions that delegates will consider at the MMA’s 145th annual meeting.
The meeting, to be held Wednesday through Friday in St. Paul, will set the group’s agenda for lobbying the Legislature next year. The group represents 9,600 physicians and medical students, or about 65 percent of the state’s doctors.
Doctors are expected to enthusiastically support a resolution authorizing the medical association to initiate or support state legislation to ban workplace smoking. But there is no consensus for a resolution to support legislation that would make managed care organizations legally liable for treatment decisions.
“The perception driving the resolution is the right of redress of someone when they’re wronged,” said Dr. Paul Sanders, the medical association’s chief executive officer.
The flip side of the debate is that malpractice lawsuits drive up the cost of health care, Sanders said.
Minnetonka-based Allina Health System opposes the resolution.
“We would disagree with the characterization that health plans make treatment decisions. Health plans make coverage decisions,” Allina spokeswoman Jan Malcolm said.
“We need to make sure appeal procedures work and work quickly, rather than moving to a legal liability issue that confuses the role of the health plan,” she said.
Another resolution proposes eliminating the 1.5 percent health-care provider tax that pays for MinnesotaCare, the state’s health insurance program for the uninsured, and funding the program instead with tobacco settlement money.
The medical society also would introduce legislation to expand MinnesotaCare to cover many uninsured.
“We have opposed the provider tax as a funding source for the MinnesotaCare system because we don’t believe it’s a fair, broad-based funding source,” medical association spokeswoman Lorrie Holmgren said.
Using tobacco settlement money would put MinnesotaCare’s funding on a solid basis, would stop singling out health care providers to foot the bill and would still leave money for smoking cessation programs, she said.