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Region deserves fair health rates

In a column from Feb. 16, Rep. Shannon Savick proposed a bill to address the high price of health care. She says our insurance prices are high due to lack of competition.

We don’t need another law that doesn’t work. We have laws against price fixing and anti-trust laws to enforce competition. Insurance companies are exempt from some laws. The insurance industry is still highly regulated by departments of commerce, health and insurance commissioners. They regulate the insurance industry and its practices. Yet these departments failed to fully do that task. Savick verified the existing lack of competition problem. If new legislation was needed, these departments should have already identified those problems and asked the Legislature for needed authority. The real problem is the continuing failure to properly regulate and oversee the insurance system in our area. Why has Minnesota, through its departments, failed to act on behalf of southern Minnesota’s residents? A new law will not correct anything, as long as this insurance market and health care providers are not properly regulated to require competition and fair pricing.

Savick’s proposed bill allows people to shop for health insurance in nearby regions. That is not viable if consumers have to drive long distances to see providers, especially for simple routine procedures. Consider mothers forced to drive long distances with crying, sick or hurt children because they can’t afford insurance in their local area; employees too sick to work, but forced to drive long distances to see providers. This issue only gets worse when considering older individuals not yet eligible for Medicare. Add winter’s road conditions. There are better options. Minnesota must effectively regulate the insurance market and health care providers in southern Minnesota, and legislators must see that this is actually done.

Everyone can understand why a “world-class” health system provider may require higher fees to maintain their status and quality of facilities and doctors. Everyone in Minnesota benefits from that provider, but residents in southern Minnesota can’t be discriminated against, nor be expected to unfairly pay the bulk of that cost via excessively high insurance premiums.

Now, when people from other regions in Minnesota come to Mayo Clinic, they are usually covered under their plan and receive care at Mayo that’s paid by their insurance. To quote Savick, “These plans (from other portions of the state) come at some of the best prices in the country.”

The problem is that residents in southern Minnesota can’t buy that low-priced insurance coverage simply because they live here, so those residents are in fact discriminated against and forced to pay higher, unfair premiums to get the same coverage already available to other Minnesotans. Savick’s solution may indeed allow southern Minnesota residents to buy lower-priced insurance policies, but then those residents would have to go to other regions and providers for health care instead of local hospitals and doctors. Again, the discrimination against southern Minnesota residents is continued. That is not a solution and it doesn’t correct the real problems in this area.

 

Catherine Sippel

Albert Lea