For Minnesota, greatness lies in two visionary health care proposals

  • Article by: JIM ABELER
  • Updated: April 15, 2013 - 10:28 AM

The U-Fairview and Mayo proposals offer a chance to think big.

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A bronze statue of Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr Charles H. Mayo titles "My Brother and I" outside the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The brothers along with their father, Dr. William Worrall Mayo, built the Mayo Clinic.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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It’s time to think big about Minnesota’s health care destiny. We stand at a crossroads. One path settles us into the status quo. The other would make Minnesota a mecca for medical training, treatment and health care innovation.

The path to greatness lies with two visionary proposals. First, the University of Minnesota has proposed expanding its relationship with (and perhaps even acquiring) Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, which generates much of its revenue by coordinating with the University of Minnesota Medical Center. This is an incredibly important statewide asset that trains nearly 70 percent of Minnesota’s health care workforce and provides innovative care for tens of thousands of people.

The university’s proposal to expand is opportune, because the national trend among large academic health centers is to have their own hospital and clinic networks. This creates a dynamic treatment environment benefiting students, doctors and patients. Creating an expanded University of Minnesota academic health system would make the institution a national powerhouse, the second-largest academic health center in the country and the largest employer in the state.

Even though Sanford Health has withdrawn its merger proposal, the meaningful discussion it has provoked should continue. Certainly it is important to protect the U’s Medical Center as a valuable state asset. Far beyond that, Minnesota would be a monumental national health care leader with a new U-Fairview design, and the country would greatly benefit by our leadership.

Second, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the state’s largest private employer, is asking for a state contribution of $500 million in order to create a $5 billion “Destination Medical Center.” Mayo is known worldwide as being synonymous with quality and innovation. It will certainly be a permanent fixture here, but it needs to be allowed to be all it can be.

Mayo is poised to grow. Other states are willing to invest in this expansion if Minnesota legislators do not heed Mayo’s warning. It needs to grow in Minnesota.

The risks are real if we do not act on both of these proposals. If we fail to think big, we would merely retain the status quo. Yes, we would still have two very nice institutions. But “nice” means not being at the cutting edge, not pushing the limits nor competing at the top of our game, possibly losing our nation-leading health care status.

What is exciting is that, by prioritizing our resources, our ability to fund both of these proposals is well within our budget. We can’t tax our way to prosperity, but we can vision our way to prosperity by thinking big and spending wisely.

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Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, is a member of the Minnesota House.

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