In the middle of Minnesota’s affordable healthcare debate, it’s important to remember what we have: a pretty good deal. Minnesota is a high healthcare cost, high healthcare service, and high healthcare outcomes state. That means that we experience the national affordable healthcare reform debate differently than most states. What works in Minnesota doesn’t exist in most states.
From a policy perspective, we must intensely focus on preserving strong service and high quality; maintaining access; expanding affordability and containing costs. It’s not going to be easy.
I was perusing United Healthcare Foundation’s “2010 America’s Health Rankings,” closely studying Minnesota’s rankings. Compared to a majority of states, we’re in good shape. That’s not to say that we don’t have problems. We do. But as we contemplate balancing access, affordability, and high quality service, it’s important to understand that Minnesota’s healthcare tradition didn’t evolve in a vacuum. It’s the product of our collective community values regarding health, well-being and hard work.
For the most part, the only place to go is down. This can happen one of two ways. Either we do less to maintain our traditions and subsequent rankings or other states do more, raising their outcomes and surpassing Minnesota on the rankings chart. The conservative policy approach would have us do less, directing government to disregard people’s short-term and long-term healthcare concerns and those impacts on Minnesota’s economic climate. Conservatives will claim that this policy direction makes us freer but I confess that I don’t understand how growing health crisis created impoverishment makes Minnesota better.
That’s a likely outcome. As health insurance coverage levels diminish, more people will try to do without. Since a serious health crisis’ costs will quickly empty a family’s savings, including forcing home foreclosure, these new negative experience will rapidly redefine Minnesota. We risk, in other words, becoming Missouri or Mississippi, ranked 38th and 50th respectively. Instead, let’s expand affordability and maintain Minnesota’s high outcomes tradition. If we do that, Minnesota moves forward.