Editorial: Mandated health care sparks discussion

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

State-mandated health insurance for every Minnesotan? Unheard of.

Unheard of, that is, until two state lawmakers, acting on a recommendation by the Minnesota Medical Association, introduced a measure that would require every Minnesotan to carry at least basic health insurance by January 2007.

Furthermore, the measure would mandate that health plans would have to offer the insurance at a price that couldn’t vary according to the person’s age, gender, health history or status.

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But how much would such a program cost? Cost estimates were not included. But the Minnesota Medical Association’s health care reform task force, which designed the bill, believes that the plan would save money in the long run.

Under such a plan, everyone would pay the same premium for the most basic medical benefits because risk would be spread statewide. Individuals with the wherewithal could pay more to upgrade.

This proposal verges on the revolutionary &045; it’s the first of its kind in the United States &045; but it opens the door of much-needed discussion of health care reform in Minnesota and nationally, if Minnesota eventually becomes a leader.

Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, a Rochester Independent and one of the authors, acknowledged in a Minnesota Public Radio interview that she doesn’t expect the bill to pass this session. If by some chance it did, though, it would require the state health commissioner to come up with a plan by the end of this year to enforce the universal coverage requirement.

But that’s how major reforms are initiated. They need to be introduced, debated, possibly studied by a special panel in the interim between sessions, and eventually refined and voted on. Of course, cost estimates would need to be worked out.

The plan would not alter existing MinnesotaCare, the state-subsidized health insurance program for low-income people, although that program has tightened eligibility requirements in recent years.

Some basic coverage for all Minnesotans might be the answer to the reduction in the number of businesses that offer health insurance to employees because costs are rising.

Some answer is needed. This is a place to start the debate.

&045; Duluth News Tribune