The Affordable Care Act and Minnesota: Not perfect, but a big step forward

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I met a Logan Park father upset that he couldn’t buy regular health insurance for his 4 year old son after his employer decided to stop family coverage. His son at age two had a long lasting severe headache. No cause was found and it went away on its own. His son was rejected for a “pre-existing condition” based on that single middle of the night episode years ago.

Thankfully, federal health care reform will, when fully implemented in 2014, prevent this and make health insurance better, available and affordable. Some provisions like reduced drug costs for seniors are already in effect. I’m pleased the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Much of what is in the ACA has been law for some time in Minnesota. We have many provisions that benefit consumers: bans on lifetime limits, options for people denied insurance, family coverage for young adults. We constrain cost increases through insurance premiums limits, require lifesaving prevention at no cost sharing in HMO policies, and more. We created MinnesotaCare as an affordable option for many workers without access to employer coverage. As a result we have 9% who are uninsured while other states are over 20%. We’ve shown it can work.

We have worked with all – doctors, nurses, hospitals and patient advocates like AARP to develop and test new ways to get research into practice faster so lives are saved and care made more efficient and effective. I’m pleased to have authored many of these provisions in insurance and health care policy. But our state laws can’t cover employees whose companies chose a federally governed policy. Now ALL will have access to these protections.

My top 10 benefits of the federal health care reform:

  1. Premium credits so coverage is affordable for those who can’t afford insurance now.
  2. No lifetime limits. How cruel to tell a seriously ill person that their insurance coverage has run out just when they really need it.
  3. No pre-existing condition insurance denials or premium penalties or dropping coverage when you get sick. Many with employer group insurance have been protected from this, now the nightmare will be gone from all.
  4. Promoting prevention and lifesaving early diagnosis. Insurance must fully pay the cost of early diagnostic tests like mammograms.
  5. Tax credits for small businesses so they can offer affordable group coverage.
  6. No more uninsured who can’t afford to pay for their care and the result is an increase in everyone else’s costs. When insurance is affordable to all, we won’t all have to continue to pay many hundreds of dollars a year in our insurance premiums and property taxes to cover the uncompensated care of people without insurance.
  7. It constrains insurance companies, but not your choices.
  8. Promoting prevention and improving care quality.
  9. Enabling US businesses to compete successfully in a global economy. That means more jobs at home and less out sourcing of jobs.
  10. Best of all – more lives saved.

It’s not perfect but it fixes many flaws in our current system. We are already seeing its benefits in reduced drug costs for seniors, more young adults being covered, and new efforts on prevention. Thank you President Obama, Congress and the Supreme Court for supporting this path to better health for all.