Thursday, October 23, 2014

‘Medical NAFTA’ ready to go

Health-care providers, agency officials, elected officials, and other decision-makers from both sides of the border will meet tomorrow to discuss residents’ need for better cross-border access to medical services and what might be done to share those services.
The first international “Medical NAFTA” meeting will take place from 8 a.m.-noon at La Place Rendez-Vous, with about 40 dignitaries in attendance.

They will include Jamshed Merchant, the Canadian Counsel General based in Minneapolis, his U.S. counterpart, Tim Cipullo, as well as several politicians and their aides.
Plans for “Medical NAFTA” have been underway since last July following a meeting with Merchant about border trade.
Fort Frances Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft recalled that International Falls Coun. Cynthia Jacksa came up with the idea of a similar discussion about medical services. Since then, the pair have led the way in putting the meeting together.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft said both organizers feel tomorrow’s meeting will be a first step in possibly sharing some medical services.
“We’re hoping that over the long process, things may begin to happen and we’ll start to be able to share medical services,” he noted.
“But it’s going to be a long process,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed. “We know that there are significant roadblocks that we’re going to have to overcome.
“But you’ve got to start someplace.”
He said he’s looking forward to some good discussion tomorrow.
“It’s certainly going to be a lot of input from a lot of stakeholders revolving around health care—doctors, nurses, insurance companies, the whole gamut,” said Coun. Wiedenhoeft.
He added it’s unfortunate none of the area MPPs are able to attend in person, but Bill Mauro’s office did say he was interested in any outcomes of the meeting.
“He could maybe take them up with the minister of health,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said.
“They are aware we’re doing this, the politicians on our side, so we may still have avenues to get to the ear of the minister of health.”
Tomorrow’s meeting also will include citizen testimonials showing the need for cross-border access to medical services.
On the agenda to speak are Rep. David Dill, who has served in the Minnesota House for more than 20 years, owns a resort in Canada, and has a home in the International Falls area, and Randy Thoms of 93.1 The Border.
Administration from local hospitals and clinics then will share information on what services are available and which ones are needed, as well as what roadblocks currently are stopping those services from being accessed from residents from either side of the border.
The aim of this process is to identify which services have the best chance for cross-border access, such as renal dialysis and obstetrics.
Meeting participants will make a list of services to pursue.
Agency officials from Ontario, Minnesota, and the federal governments responsible for regulating insurance and government reimbursements then will discuss cost reimbursement problems with cross-border medical access.
They’ll also cover liability insurance for physicians and hospitals, and policy problems regarding the allocation of limited resources to non-residents.
The purpose of this will be to identify what regulatory obstacles need to be addressed.
Elected officials and their aides also will be asked how they can overcome obstacles with legislation.
By the end of the meeting, a list of obstacles and services, and who will work on what, will be established.

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