Post-ACA situation for Minnesota still fuzzy, but getting clearer

Some day, the acronym "ACA" will be as commonly understood in everyday conversations as the FBI or MnDOT or FEMA. But there's still a whole lot to learn about the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping federal health-care overhaul that eventually extends coverage to as many as 40 million previously uninsured Americans.

I had the privilege of attending a presentation on the subject this week by one of Minnesota's most respected leaders in the field, Mary Brainerd, CEO of Bloomington-based  Health Partners, and sponsored by KeyStone Search, an executive search firm. Brainerd also has been a key leader in the Itasca Project team, a far-sighted group of top business leaders who tackle broad issues affecting Minnesot'a quality of life and economic competitiveness.

Among the key takeaways in Brainerd's presentation:   

  • The important principle that everybody is in the pool - well people and sick people - "marks a turning point'' toward "solidarity'' in the U.S. system. The federal reform gets there with individual mandates, need-based subsidies, insurance reforms, state insurance exchanges and expanded Medicaid coverage.
  • Although more coverage of an additional 35 million to 40 million Americans by 2019 is the goal, and it might mean lower bottom-line costs for some or many Americans, the price tag for the federal responsibility could be as high as $1 trillion over the decade. And "there are a lot of elections and budgets between now and then.''   
  • Aside from the business of financing health-care equitably and universally, all of us need to tackle the behaviors that threaten our national health. Obesity rates and diabetes are becoming epidemic, and fewer than 10 percent of Americans really adhere to the obvious and basic behavioral regimen that improves health: fruits and vegetables five times a day, no smoking, moderate alcohol intake, and regular and vigorous exercise.

Brainerd promised on her last PowerPoint slide that in the cause of "Real Health Care Reform,'' she and Health Partners would "advocate for it,'' and "be an example of it.''

Minnesota policy-makers have a lot of work to do between now and January to figure out what legislation, if any, is needed to follow up and complement the federal legislation. For a primer on Minnesota angle, here's an at-a-glance guide to Minnesota-specific impacts of the Affordable Care Act  and there's more data and information at the federal main page, HealthCare.gov