Minnesota Wants to Join Ranks of States Mandating Health Insurance Coverage
While it may be to early to say that the apparent success of the "Massachusetts Experiment" mandating access to affordable health insurance for all of its residents is creating a groundswell of support, more and more States want to follow the Bay States lead. Most recently Minnesota.
In a program developed in conjunctions with doctors, insurance professionals and legislators, the Governors office recently reviled the plan for Universal Health Coverage for all residents of the North Star State, called "Healthy Minnesota". The plan requires all residents of the State to have health insurance by 2011 and like the Massachusetts program provides subsidies to those who cannot afford it. Conceptual objection to Universal Health Coverage is waning; it has been embraced by political candidates on both side of the aisle, Republican Governors in both Massachusetts and California and endorsed by major organizations like Americas Health Insurance Plans and the Federation of American Hospitals. So while conceptually the objections to health insurance for all are dwindling, the strongest objection remains "how will we pay for it". And that problem is no exception in Minnesota. Most programs say that is accomplished by expanding existing public programs and subsidizing private health insurance policies- but whether that really works remains to be seen in Massachusetts, when affordable high deductible health plans are made available early this summer.
The coalition in Minnesota estimated that enacting cost containment measures, and getting those uninsured out of a system of uncompensated care like using the States Emergency Rooms can save an estimated 200 million per year, which can help offset the price tag of health insurance for all. A study just published by the Harvard Medical School, showed that those in Massachusetts who switched to high deductible health plans used Emergency Rooms for non-emergency treatments less then they did before they switched to, or obtained the plans. On another encouraging note, Minnesota comes to the funding issue in better shape than most other states. Currently Minnesota has the nation's lowest uninsured rate, at fewer than 8%, and a guaranteed funding stream in a Health Care Access Fund that is actually running at an annual surplus exceeding $50 million. The benefits of Healthy Minnesota are clear; in published research over and over again it has been shown that children and adults with access to affordable health insurance are more likely to see doctors early on before the onset of serious conditions, develop far less chronic illnesses and are more productive since they are less likely to miss school and work due to illness.