MANKATO — Glen Peterson was looking at the responses to a survey sent out earlier this year by state Sen. Kathy Sheran of Mankato.
The question on health care reform jumped out at Peterson, not surprising for a retired professor in Minnesota State University’s College of Allied Health and Nursing.
But it wasn’t the number of respondents who favored a single-payer health care system that struck him, or the percentage who preferred President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
It was the most popular response to the question that got him moving.
“Not sure — I don’t have enough information” was selected by 40 percent of the 793 respondents, more than any other answer. For a teacher, the idea of people not having enough information was about as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard.
“Doesn’t this really call for some sort of educational forum?” Peterson recalls thinking.
So he got to work, and his efforts will culminate with a public informational forum Saturday afternoon featuring some prominent Minnesota experts on health care policy.
“Options for Structure of Our Health Care System” will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at MSU’s Centennial Student Union ballroom. Three experts will offer in-depth looks at three possible reforms: the Affordable Care Act (frequently called Obamacare) and health care exchanges; a more state-based approach where federal health care programs are replaced by vouchers and block grants to states; and a national health care/single-payer approach.
The goal is for the audience to leave better informed about all three approaches after hearing the panelists speak and answer audience questions.
“We’ve asked them all to take the educational/informational focus rather than trying to win converts,” Peterson said.
Lynn Blewett, who will focus on the Affordable Care Act, is the director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center — a research and policy center funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The center works to help states evaluate programs aimed at increasing access to health care and is assisting 10 states with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger will focus on proposals to use vouchers, block grants and interstate compacts to deliver health care. Durenberger, who was involved in health care reform efforts in the Senate, retired in 1995 and is founder of the National Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business.
Dr. Dave Dvorak, who worked in the emergency department at Fairview Southdale Hospital for 18 years and now practices at a clinic serving the uninsured, will talk about a national single-payer health care system. Dvorak is a member of the Minnesota chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.
The forum — free and open to the public — begins at 1 p.m. and is scheduled to end at 4 p.m. following audience questions and the completion of a survey by those attending. And Peterson will clearly be disappointed by only one result of the survey — if 40 percent of participants suggest they don’t have enough information to offer an opinion on health care reform.
“At least hopefully, they’ll have a little bit better understanding of what the options are and be on the way to making more informed choices,” he said.