We celebrate this morning’s Supreme Court ruling as a significant step forward in making health insurance accessible and affordable for more Minnesotans. Today’s decision upholding key provisions of the Affordable Care Act is important because, for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans, their interest in health care reform is not about legal opinions or political battles – it’s about whether their families can afford to see a doctor.
Much was at risk in today’s ruling. The Affordable Care Act already allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, prevents insurers from denying children coverage for pre-existing conditions, and requires preventive services to be covered without out-of-pocket costs. These benefits could have been lost.
But even more was at stake. The Affordable Care Act can remove many of the barriers that keep people from getting adequate and affordable health insurance coverage. We can now move forward with implementing these provisions, including:
- Improving access to health coverage by creating a health insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for private insurance;
- Making insurance more affordable by offering tax subsidies to lower the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many Minnesotans;
- Ensuring a basic level of coverage for everyone by creating a set of “essential benefits” that all health insurance plans in the state must cover;
- Setting up a system of trained navigators to help guide individuals and small businesses through the process of selecting and purchasing the health insurance products that fit their needs;
- Reducing health disparities by improving insurance rates in communities of color through more affordable coverage and better outreach.
There are still significant gaps in our current health care system – nearly half a million Minnesotans were without health insurance at last count.
People go without health insurance for a variety of reasons: they can’t afford the premiums, pre-existing conditions make it difficult to qualify, they find it hard to shop for insurance, or they are crossing their fingers that they’ll stay healthy.
But going without insurance carries very high risks, both for the individual and the state’s economy. An individual who is uninsured (or underinsured) is more likely to avoid seeking medical care in a timely way, leading to worse health outcomes. People are also less likely to be able to afford their medical bills if a health care emergency strikes, leading to medical debt. And this inability to pay hurts the state’s economy because it leads to more uncompensated care, which eventually results in higher health care costs for everyone else.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act gives us a chance to provide accessible, affordable and adequate insurance coverage for more Minnesotans. We can reduce the number of uninsured and create a health care system that works for everyone.
There is still lots of work to be done before the bulk of these reforms are implemented in 2014 – but you can count on the Minnesota Budget Project to keep you informed along the way.