Keeping people healthy lowers costs all around


In the last two weeks the Star Tribune has run two very different health care stories that leave the reader with the same message: Comprehensive and preventive care cut costs and improve quality of life.

The University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and Minnesota State University Moorhead all require health insurance for enrolled students. Although none of these institutions have done extensive research on the subject, they all report anecdotal evidence and strong correlations between being insured and performing well in school. In another story, the Star Tribune reports that the implementation of health care homes in Staples, MN has lead to cost saving, increased access to primary care and less emergency room visits. Although the stories are very different, they convey the same message, namely that access to health care is good!

In the debate over health care reform we often focus on those who are without as a way of convincing the other side that access to health insurance is the humane course of action, but perhaps we should also spend time showing already realized positive outcomes of the programs that are in place in order to convince them we should make such programs universally accessible.

Many students who are now required to have insurance are faced with higher costs at the start of every semester, but the reward is access to primary and preventive care, which results in decreased absence from school. Fewer sick days and no need to worry about possible illness leads to better performance, and graduating on time with good grades will quickly return the cost of added health insurance.

For the Staples residents taking part in the health care home program, they have a contact person in their care coordinator, they’re guaranteed more time with their doctor and on shorter notice, and they have found that the program offers old-fashioned service with positive health outcomes. The ability to reach and discuss health concerns with their care provider leads to fewer emergency room visits and better health outcomes. The feeling of being recognized and truly cared for is icing on the cake.

These days we see continued efforts in the state to cut programs and “disinvest” in our public health care. Therefore, it’s important to highlight the good efforts that the state still puts forth, be it through private or public institutions. Health care homes, baskets of care, SHIP are all state efforts that are about to be or have just been launched. The initiative from the schools to require students to have health insurance ensures health care for all but also ensures lower prices as the pool of customers widens. And perhaps highlighting the positive outcomes of such initiatives is just what we need to convince those at the Capitol that investment in public health care carries both economic and human benefits.