I recently had the privilege to sit down with Senator Berglin and talk about Minnesota’s health care programs. Sen. Berglin’s passion for health care stems from both her experience with medical care as a child and struggling to pay for health insurance for her child. Minnesota has two programs to help provide care for low income Minnesotans: Medical Assistance (MA) and Minnesota Care (MNCare). MA is Minnesota’s Medicaid program that is funding through state and federal dollars. MNCare is Minnesota’s insurance for low-income families and provides a sliding-scale premium. MNCare is funded by a tax paid by health insurance companies.
As a part of the federal Health Care Reform law, providers will need to switch from paper-based records to electronic records. Sen Berglin has fought to ensure local community clinics are included in this switch over so that all a patients records are available no matter where they go for care. HCR also requires a state insurance exchange system. An insurance exchange will help Minnesotans find the right type of health insurance plan for them. Those Minnesotan’s with a chronic disease, like diabetes, could find information about which plans have the best outcomes when managing diabetes care. This will be a powerful tool for consumers.
While uncoupling jobs and health care coverage is ideal, one major way to improve health outcomes is to educate people about their coverage. Sen Berglin gave the example of Minnesotans with diabetic family members that have lost their vision or become an amputee – they expect these outcomes but that shouldn’t be the case. Education and outreach can help change lives and health of Minnesotans.
A recent study showed the economic value of insuring the poor. Those insured were 25% less likely to have unpaid bills go to collections and 40% less likely to fail to pay for other bills because of health care costs. Even those MNs with insurance coverage are facing dwindling options and increased cost.
A survey last month by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions found that a quarter of the people who responded had skipped seeing the doctor as a result of economic uncertainty and higher out-of-pocket costs. About one in eight said they’d significantly reduced their health care spending.
The trend is fattening the profits of health insurers. They set premiums this year on the theory that Americans who put off care during the worst of the recession would return to more normal patterns. But increased deductibles and other insurance provisions that require people to sometimes still pay thousands for procedures is depressing the use of medical services.
With the continued budget battle, many legislators may be looking to gut MNCare all together. While this may seem like a viable option with the upcoming changes in Medicaid (increasing eligibility to 400% of poverty); those Minnesotans who were already eligible for MA, but not insured, will not be covered by the increase in federal funds. Federal funds also won’t cover dental insurance. There are over 20,000 emergency room visits every year due to dental pain. Sen Berglin recalled one MN man who waited so long to get care that, once he did, doctors had to operate on his jaw, face, neck and shoulder to remove the infected tissue. This ran at a cost of $35K. Berglin suggests that MN Care funding be continued to include dental coverage that would save MN money in the long run. Continuing to fund MN Care is critical to for portion of health insurance not funded through federal dollars.