Last year President Obama made history with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, bringing healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans and guaranteeing preexisting conditions are covered. The Affordable Care Act is reaping benefits already in Minnesota with the implementation of early Medical Assistance, which will cover 90,000 Minnesotans while easing our state budget strain.
While we are moving in the right direction on health care, there is more we can do in Minnesota. I believe all Minnesotans should have access to quality, affordable health care. I also believe we need a healthcare system that can deliver on this goal without breaking the state bank for education, public safety, and many other vital services. That is why I have chief-authored the Minnesota Health Plan.
The Minnesota Health Plan has garnered more steam and support in recent years. The plan would cover all Minnesotans with a single statewide plan to cover all Minnesotans for their medical needs. It would replace our complicated and broken healthcare system that relies too heavily on for-profit insurance companies. The long-term result would be better, more affordable health care for all Minnesotans at a sustainable cost for the future.
One common misperception about the Minnesota Health Plan is that it would cost too much. I would contend our current healthcare system costs too much. Last year Minnesota families, businesses, and government spent $35 billion on health care — more than our entire two-year state budget. The same study projected costs would grow to $55 billion in seven years. It does not take a mathematician to figure out these costs are unsustainable.
The Minnesota Health Plan would be paid through Minnesotans on an ability-to-pay basis. We would also be able to eliminate waste in our current complicated system, which often leads to inefficient and expensive treatments.
A recent study by a Harvard economist that was commissioned by the State of Vermont gave evidence to the notion that single-payer health care would bring down costs. The report compared three varying healthcare systems, including a single-payer plan similar to the Minnesota Health Plan. The report found that the single-payer plan would save Vermont $500 million with those savings growing larger in the future.
Another misconception is that the Minnesota Health Plan would be a “government takeover” of health care. To the contrary, the plan ensures healthcare decisions are made by doctors and patients — not insurance companies or the government.
Under the plan, patients would be able to see the medical providers of their choice when they need care, and their coverage by the health plan would not end when they lose a job or switch to a new employer.
There would be no filling out of complex forms, no worrying about pre-existing conditions disqualifying you, no worrying about whether the treatment was covered or how you are going to pay for the prescription drugs.
Health care should be a fundamental service that Minnesotans pay for just as they do for their local police or fire department. If your house is going up in flames, the fire department doesn’t first ask you if you have fire insurance before they put out the fire. The same should apply to health care. We need a better healthcare system that works for Minnesotans, and that is what I believe we can achieve with the Minnesota Health Plan.
I will be holding a healthcare town hall meeting at the end of March, so that we can discuss the Minnesota Health Plan and the state of health care in Minnesota. I will share that information with you soon and encourage you to contact me with your ideas and input.
Jeff Hayden is the District 61B state representative. He welcomes reader responses to 651-296-7152 or email@example.com, or visit his office in the State Office Building, Room 389, across Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. from the Capitol.