Data request process for health care documents continues


In October, PRM submitted Minnesota Data Practices Act requests seeking information related to Minnesota’s public health care programs. Specifically, we sought information about whether entities participating in these programs were complying with Minnesota laws regarding the mandatory disclosure of financial (and other) information.

In 2010, Dave Feinwachs – the general counsel for the Minnesota Hospital Association – produced a video that raised several questions about the transparency of Minnesota’s public health care programs – particularly in relation to the amounts of state money that insurers were keeping for administrative expenses, as opposed to laying out for provider reimbursements and patient care. Such concerns had been previously raised and investigated by former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch.

The Feinwachs video also included several other critiques, including a criticism that it was too difficult to gauge the cost-effectiveness of Minnesota’s public programs. The video caused a firestorm within public health circles. Feinwachs was subsequently fired from his job, and is currently suing his former employer in Ramsey County Court over defamation and other matters.

The debate over the transparency of Minnesota’s public health care programs led to the introduction of several proposals during the 2011 legislative session. Last year, executive-level action took place as well. PRM will soon post a history of the debate over Minnesota’s public health care programs, as well as a summary of the policies that have been enacted or proposed as a result of that debate.

The documents that we pursued through our data requests were sought – in part – to provide additional information about program transparency issues, by evaluating the degree to which insurers and providers were complying with state-mandated data disclosures.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services recently released several large batches of documents to PRM, which we have posted. At this time, we are still waiting for more data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Interestingly, one of the provisions that compels data reporting related to Minnesota’s public health care programs (256B.69, Subd. 9c) was altered by the Minnesota legislature during its last session. Now, “individual-level provider payment and reimbursement rate data” is classified as “nonpublic data.” For more detail, see the summer 2011 edition of the newsletter from IPAD – the Information and Policy Analysis Division of the Minnesota Department of Administration.