Minnesota Health Plans Agree to ‘Standards’ of Care
Five health plans in Minnesota have endorsed a set of "standard guidelines" for treating 50 common ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes and bladder infections, the New York Times reports. The protocols, which place an emphasis on preventive care, represent the first time all the "major health plans" in a state have endorsed a common set of procedures. The Times reports that the agreement "represents a major step toward the adoption of national 'best practice' medical standards based on recognized scientific evidence." The participating health plans, which include HealthPartners, Medica, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, PreferredOne and UCare,will use guidelines that have been developed over the past five years by some 3,200 doctors -- representing 36% of the physicians in the state -- from plans that worked with the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, a Bloomington, Minn.-based collaboration of health care organizations. Physician researchers will continue to refine the guidelines as "new medicines and procedures appear" and protocols will be available to both doctors and patients online at ICSI's Web site (http://www.icsi.org).
Business groups "hailed" the new standards. Bruce Bradley, director of managed care plans at General Motors Corp., said, "It's very important that we take the best possible science and processes and get them disseminated. It's the core issue in health care." Carolyn Pare, chairperson of the Buyers Health Care Action Group, called the agreement a "fabulous development" adding that her organization, which represents 50 self-insured Minnesota employers, already considers ICSI protocols "the gold standard." Paula Roe, senior vice president of Wells Fargo & Company said, "As a very large employer, we value the work of the institute tremendously. This is not an issue where we seek competitive differentiation of one plan over another. A best practice is a best practice is a best practice." (Freudenheim, New York Times, 3/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.