As the MN legislature races to pass a bonding bill to put Minnesotans back to work, I hope they remember to solve some of the problems behind the anemic economy. A major economic factor is that employers aren’t hiring. Why? According to a HealthPartners survey of 180 employers, the number one reason was affordable health care.
For most of us, this makes sense. American businesses are forced to compete in a global community where many other countries provide health care for their citizens. By providing health care, this takes a huge operating cost off the backs of business.
“Affordable health care is a challenge and Minnesota businesses, along with businesses around the country, are struggling,” said Andrea Walsh, chief marketing officer at HealthPartners, the third-biggest health insurer in Minnesota.
The GOP answer? Market-based solutions. How that differs from our current system remains unknown (at least to me). According to gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer on KFAI, all people need good-paying jobs to pay for health care. For candidate Marty Seifert, it’s all about costs; people from all over the world come to the Mayo Clinic, and we can’t have universal care because everyone will move here for the “free care.” Now, I’m not quoting directly, because I was taking notes, but if you want to hear what they had to say check out KFAI.
My response is, well it would be great if everyone had good paying jobs. How about we start reinvesting in Minnesota education and take costs like health insurance out of the job equation so employers can start hiring?
Secondly, this isn’t “free care.” Nothing is free. Employers and people (on an ability-to-pay basis) would pay premiums, but not to a for-profit insurance company.
A few of the candidates touted their status as being small business owners, commenting that they have always been able to provide good benefits to their employees and that you have to take the time to explain the insurance coverage to employees. I didn’t even know what to say to that, but MN businesses don’t agree.
Employers are resorting to a variety of tactics to lighten their health costs. About 60 percent are increasing employees’ share of costs through higher premiums, co-pays or deductibles.
But that is, at best, a temporary measure. Some employers seemed to realize they’ve already shifted costs to the point where employees are avoiding the doctor. Thirty-two percent of employers said they were interested in reducing financial barriers for workers who need care.
Employers realize they “simply can’t keep moving the dollars around,” Walsh said.
I have personal experience in this phenomenon. My family owned a small business and we were continuously shifting insurance companies. We would shift doctors, have waiting periods for coverage, be denied coverage for preexisting conditions.
My mother died at the age of 46. Could this have been prevented? Yes. She had been treated years previously and didn’t get follow-ups over the years because of preexisting conditions and we just didn’t have the money. At 45, she was finally so sick, and after waiting out yet another waiting period for coverage, she went to the doctor and was, eventually, diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and died 7 months later. Colon cancer is one of the slowest growing and most treatable cancers, when caught early. Prevention saves lives.
Another method insurance companies try to limit preventative coverage is by charging copays. Here is on physician’s take on copays:
As a neurologist who sees multiple sclerosis (MS) patients every day, I am worried that without reform, our current system will kill preventive care and continue driving up the cost of care. I know this because patients too often tell me that they aren’t taking their medications or aren’t following my advice for maintaining their health because they can’t afford skyrocketing copays.
Insurance companies recently introduced this highest-priced tier and are categorizing more medications into the fourth tier all the time. In many cases, the copay for an MS medication can jump from $25 to $200 for a one-month supply, effectively denying patients access to needed medicines and preventive care.
The U.S. spends the most money per individual than any other country in the world. Our system is broken and we need reform. In Minnesota …
Almost two-thirds of companies said health costs jumped 10 percent or more in the past two years, with a quarter reporting costs surging by more than 20 percent. A tiny minority — just 3 percent — said health costs declined.
Separately, the government said this week that health care consumed a record 17.3 percent of all spending in the U.S. economy last year — roughly $2.5 trillion.
The current debate is really on two fronts; both agree that we need to bring costs down but covering all Americans (as demonstrated in the ‘YOU LIE’ outburst) is still a contentious issue.
Why should we cover everyone? Because it reduces costs and saves lives, something we can all agree on, and it is the morally right thing to do. In Minnesota alone, 100,000 Minnesotans lost their health insurance, bringing the total uninsured to 480,000. 85,000 of those are children and while we covered another 20,000 last year, we still ended up with a net loss of insured children. More kids lack health insurance than the year before.
So, how do we bring costs down AND cover more people? Interestingly, there was a study in 2006 by the Lewin Group. They essentially looked at four plans. The first three would work by a combination of increasing access to public programs, low-income subsidies and including a limited public option. All of these programs would still leave people uninsured and would increase total spending on health care in the state.
Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every great movement for change has been labeled as “unrealistic.” As a country, we’ve continued to fight for human rights, battling against the “political realities.” Health care is one of this generation’s biggest human rights battles.