Minn. health care spending increases slow

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Health care spending increases in Minnesota have slowed greatly, the state Department of Health said Thursday.

The department released an annual report showing spending on doctors, drugs and other medical care in Minnesota grew only 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, capping a three-year period that marked the slowest growth since the state started keeping track in the mid-1990s.

The slowdown was so dramatic that it leaves Minnesota in a position to pay back $50 million spent on 2008 health care reforms, which appear to have helped contain medical outlays, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1jV8kuR ) reported.

According to the report, Minnesota residents, along with their public and private insurers, spent $38.2 billion on health care in 2011 —well below the projected $40.5 billion.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said the report “confirms Minnesota’s reputation for leadership and innovation in the health care sector.”

Minnesota was ahead of the curve nationally in 2008 when it invested in a variety of reforms, including the creation of “health care homes” to guide patients to the safest and most cost-effective medical providers and grants that allowed communities to expand access to fitness programs and healthy food.

State officials cautioned that the reforms can’t be fully credited for putting the brakes on spending. Minnesota was still emerging from the recession in 2011, when jobless and uninsured residents were probably deferring dental checkups, doctors’ visits and other medical services because they couldn’t afford them.

However, the state estimated that the reforms were responsible for as much as $99 million to $414 million in savings when comparing actual health care spending in 2011 to projected spending.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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