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State creates task force to look at future of UMN healthcare

Task force comes after a month of setbacks for the healthcare system.
Image by CJ Bonk
Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) in his office in the Capitol on Friday July 21, 2023.

Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) signed an executive order August 10 establishing a state-led task force to evaluate the future of University of Minnesota Health Care System.

The order comes less than a month after talks between the University’s healthcare partner, Fairview, and the South Dakota-based Sanford Health fell through. The University’s trial against its non-profit insurance partner, UCare, was also given a trial date in late July.

There are five main areas Walz instructed the task force engage with:

  1. Review other states’ examples for financial and clinical partnerships between non-academic health systems;
  2. Consider financial support and partnership models that benefit healthcare systems, professionals and recipients;
  3. Determine potential options for oversight for programs funded by the Health Sciences Programs;
  4. Find funding models for academic and state health systems; and
  5. Develop criteria relating to “equity, workforce diversity, geographic accessibility, and primary care” in rural areas.

“I am calling together this group of leaders and health care experts to work to ensure that the future of Minnesota’s academic health remains strong,” Walz said in a statement announcing the order.

Task force members include state health leaders, such as the state’s former Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. Two members of the task force are required to be representatives of the University, with one being a member of the School of Medicine, according to the order. Minnesota Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) was appointed on August 18 to be the designate for the House of Representatives.

“We know academic medicine delivers advances in primary care, treatments and cures, as well as training the health professionals who see and treat Minnesotans every day and provide the highest quality of care,” the University’s interim president, Jeffrey Ettinger, said in a press release shortly after the announcement. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance plans that prioritize the health of all Minnesotans, now and into the future.”

A University spokesperson referred questions to the Governor’s Office.

According to the order, the task force will be required to meet at least twice a month, as well as regularly update the governor. The meeting structure is still being determined, without clarification if the meetings will be public or when they will meet, according to Garry Bowman, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Bowman confirmed the Fairview/Sanford Health merger will be part of the taskforce’s work, as will the new system hospital in St. Cloud.

The task force will have until Jan. 15, 2024 to submit a written recommendation of its findings to Walz.

This article has been updated.

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