By: Brian Arola

Article originally appeared in the Hibbing Daily Tribune on March 4, 2015

HIBBING — Everyone has an opinion on health care.

To share yours and contribute to research seeking to look past partisan bickering and find the best health care system for the future, the MN HealthBasics collaboration is holding a forum to gather input and share research at noon Tuesday, March 10, at the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce.

MN Health Basics consists of leaders from various groups including Twin Cities’ area chambers of commerce and health care organizations. The group has held similar forums across the state, all in the goal of promoting conversation about the future of health care.

The conversation is needed because the issue has become deeply polarized along political party lines, said Tom Horner, consultant for MN HealthBasics.

“Right now Minnesotans are so polarized around the politics of health care that it’s hard to have thoughtful conversations about what we want out of the health care system,” he said.

At first, the extent of political influence on citizen’s opinions of the health care system was surprising for the research group.

“That was one of the big surprises coming out of research,” Horner said. “The expectation was how people approach health care is shaped by income and education. In fact, the single most influential driver would be politics.”

That leads to an immediate road block that can prove counterproductive when the goal is to find the best system possible.

The research compiled so far shows a near even split among Minnesotans who are most concerned with affordability and quality above all else versus those who value access and quality most.

The former segment is labelled “free-marketers,” and they’re generally ideologically conservative. The latter is politically moderate to liberal.

But despite such deep divides along party affiliations, it’s likely some overlap exists between the sides, Horner said.

“To find where that common ground is, is what the conversations will provide,” he said.

The forum will start with a presentation of further research findings, followed by discussions to gain feedback from stakeholders in the community.

People from all ranges of the health care spectrum are encouraged to attend, including individuals, business owners, insurers and health care providers.

How the feedback received at the forum will be used by MN HealthBasics is still unclear, but ideally it could end up informing future policy.

The group is nonpartisan, and didn’t go into their research hoping for specific findings. Although, by mid-summer, enough forums will be held that the desired common ground should start to reveal itself, Horner said.

Once that overlap is found, the group can then take the opinions and research gathered around the state and bring it to those who have the final hand in changing health care policy.

“A part of the next phase will be how do we share the findings with all these different entities,” he said. “We are hopeful that it will inform the policy making process.”

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If you go …

What: MN HealthBasics Health Goals Forum

When: Noon Tuesday, March 10

Where: Hibbing Chamber of Commerce

Cost: Free for Chamber members, $5 for nonmembers