Another Opinion: Minnesota doing some things rights

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 15, 2004

As evidenced by the recently concluded campaign for state House seats, issues surrounding health care &045; the cost, affordability and access &045; emerged as key considerations when the Legislature convenes in January.

But while health care remains at the top of the policy agenda, we also must not forget the gains that we have made and the importance of maintaining the high level of health care to which Minnesotans are accustomed.

Minnesota tallied a good mark when an annual survey sponsored by United Health Foundation placed the state at the top of the nation as the healthiest state. The survey measures such things as number of citizens with health insurance, heart disease rates and infant mortality.

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That the Legislature cut eligibility for the state-sponsored MinnesotaCare health insurance program became a campaign issue in many races. But, as shown by the survey, Minnesota has a high number of its population under health insurance. Certainly, we must continue to work on as many ways as possible to extend health care coverage to the largest number of Minnesotans, but the No. 1 national rating puts us in a good position.

In fact, the ratings make it 15 years in a row that Minnesota has been at the top or second in the nationwide rating.

The survey, however, does show some weaknesses for the state. Minnesota ranks 26th in the prevalence of obesity. Also problem areas are the availability of prenatal care and in health disparities, combining to show that only 45 percent of American Indian women receive adequate prenatal care compared to 79 percent for white women. That is a troubling statistic for our area, not only because of the high number of Indian families in the region but also because of the ready availability of top-notch medical services in the region. It is a statistic that should not be, and corrective policy must be found.

The rankings can be used by legislators to help frame overall health care policy, but they also should prove that what we’re doing isn’t all that bad either. As the healthiest state in the nation, we need to ensure that Minnesota stays that way without dismantling what obviously works.

(Pioneer (Bemidji))