I brought the U.S. health systems class I teach at the Minnesota School of Business to a recent Citizen Solutions conversation about health care in Elk River. I thought it would be a way for these college students to hear directly from individuals the challenges we are facing in health care in Minnesota and in America. I think it opened their eyes. What you learn in a text book takes on a new meaning when you see it and experience it in real life.
When it comes to health care, Minnesota is far more advanced than many other states. Yet we are facing the same challenges as the rest of the country—how to deal with a fragmented system that has evolved over the years and the high costs that come with it. Health care is no longer simply a social issue, it is an economic one that directly or indirectly impacts every one of us.
The greatest opportunity for advancing health and fixing health care in Minnesota doesn’t lie solely with the policymakers, the health plans or the hospitals—it lies with each individual. Over 75% of Americans do not understand how health care works, but many are forced to deal with it every day. The health care system of the past didn’t necessarily want individuals to be involved; we were just supposed to do what we were told. Now, health care wants us to be “engaged” and “informed” with little direction as to how to get there.
Minnesotans and Americans need to understand that they have an important role to play as an “informed health care consumer.” We now need to be benefits managers, financial managers, care navigators, information managers and wellness managers for ourselves and for our families. Being an informed health care consumer is going to take more time. But by becoming more informed we can make the health care decisions, policy decisions and personal decisions that will help protect our economic livelihood.
The citizens of Minnesota have an opportunity to speak up through these continuing Citizen Solutions forums—they need to do so. And as they do, policy leaders should listen. Becoming more engaged in the discussion and understanding the importance of addressing the health care crisis will likely be the single most important economic challenge we will face over the next decade.
I hope the Citizen Solutions events and activities (like the meeting in the photo from Eden Prairie, MN) provide the information necessary to continue the reform discussions and engage individuals at a very personal level. I know it did for my class of college students.
Michael J. Zdychnec is a health care training and education consultant and co-founder of Collaboration Health Care. He has over 30 years of experience working with health care stakeholders throughout the country. He is also the health care management program chair and instructor for the Minnesota School of Business campuses at Elk River and Brooklyn Center.
Talk Back to Bush
If you’ve attended a Citizen Solutions forum, what was your experience? Where have you witnessed citizen involvement bring about a more informed outcome? What keeps you from getting involved now? We want to know what you think.