Minnesota’s large amount of people with health insurance has always been a point of pride. However, our pride is now being tarnished. According to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health, more than 100,000 Minnesotans lost their health insurance from 2007 to 2009. As summarized by Alliance for a Better Minnesota, the report shows that the number of uninsured in the state swelled from 374,000 in 2007 to 480,000 in 2009, a growth of 28 percent in just two years.
A recent Minnesota 2020 report, “On Our Way to Average: Ranking Minnesota’s Economic Performance,”, examined 13 different measures of economic performance and quality of life. Health insurance coverage was one of the few areas in which Minnesota’s performance relative to other states did not show significant deterioration from 2002 to 2007; during this five year period, the percentage of Minnesota’s population without health insurance grew by 1.3 percent over five years.
The new data from the Minnesota Department of Health indicates that the decline in the percentage of the population without health insurance accelerated from 2007 to 2009. The percentage of Minnesota’s population without health insurance grew by 2.0 over just two years. Also distressing is the fact that more people are going without insurance for longer periods of time.
These findings from the Department of Health do not contain information for the rest of the nation, so it is unknown whether Minnesota’s performance relative to other states in terms of health care coverage has declined since 2007.
The 2009 edition of “America’s Health Rankings” examines a comprehensive set of data on public and health policies, community and environmental conditions, and clinical care for all 50 states. This report finds that Minnesota generally performs well relative to other states, ranking in the top ten on 11 of 22 indicators in 2009.
However, Minnesota has lost ground over the last two years, dropping from an overall rank of 2nd in 2007 to 6th in 2009. Among the more distressing findings was that in terms of public health funding per capita, Minnesota fell from 19th in 2007 to 46th in 2009. During this two year period, per capita health care spending in Minnesota fell from 19 percent below the national average to 57 percent below the national average.
“On Our Way to Average” notes that Minnesota’s performance relative to other states on a wide range of indicators has deteriorated during the “no new tax” era and that this deteriorating performance coincides with a decline in public investment. The recent data from the Minnesota Department of Health and “America’s Health Ranking” indicates that this distressing trend now extends to health care measures.
To make matters worse, the data from the Minnesota Department of Health and the “America’s Health Ranking” report does not include the impact of potential cuts to General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) that Pawlenty made using his unallotment authority last July. Unless the GAMC cuts are reversed or mitigated, the number of uninsured people in the state will further increase.
“Still better than average” is not a good motto for the State of Minnesota. If our decline continues, at some point even this modest claim will not be true. Minnesota’s position as a national leader in health care and other areas will not be restored until we recognize the important role of public investment in promoting a strong economy and a healthy quality of life.