Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives released their plan for health care reform in the state on Tuesday. Attacking single-payer systems and government-sponsored programs, they claimed that freedom of choice and competition are the only solution to rising health care prices and a growing number of uninsured Minnesotans.
“Putting people into state and federal subsidized health care is not reform. It is not the cure for the rising costs of health care, nor is it a guarantee that consumers will continue to have access to quality health care,” House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said in a press release Tuesday. “They must be engaged in taking responsibility for their own health. Government subsidies can not keep up with cost increases. Either taxes will increase dramatically or services will be rationed and waiting lists will become common if the government becomes the principal payer.”
The Republicans’ plan involves setting up tax incentives to move workers off employer-sponsored plans, rejecting a universally mandated health insurance program, creating a health data bank on a wallet card instead of medial files, removing state employees from state insurance plans and onto the private sector and shrinking the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Reform must ultimately rely on a market solution, not moving people into a state-sponsored program,” Seifert said. “There are some individuals who need our help, and we need to help them. However, just enrolling more people does absolutely nothing to reduce the cost of health care. We have to address the disease to prevent the symptoms, and not just keep on giving away Band-Aids.”
Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, the House Health and Human Services Committee chairman, told ECM Publishers that the committee is in the middle of a process to plan and prioritize strategies for health care reform in Minnesota, and the Republicans are jumping ahead. “I am disappointed that House Republican leadership has come out swinging before a plan is even finalized – and without any real alternative that is something other than tinkering around the edges,” he said.
Joel Albers of the Universal Health Care Action Network – Minnesota said that the Republicans’ plan is merely rhetoric intended to change the debate. “Of course the ‘free market’ and all of its assumptions does not exist because corporate health care operates as a monopoly allowing exclusive control over pricing,” he said. “Fortunately, public opinion polls show that people see through the rhetoric and believe health care should be government-funded, as a human right, based on need … and people supporting one another.”
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, echoed that sentiment in ECM. “I don’t believe that Minnesotans think their health care costs will be lowered if we support giving more of those dollars to Wall Street traders,” said Berglin. “What Minnesotans have told me over the years is that they want a provider and health insurance company that cares about their overall wellness, not high executive salaries.”