Guest Column: Be creative with solutions for health care

Published 8:50 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

Guest Column by Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

 

Health care is clearly the biggest issue I hear about from the people in our area and throughout the state. Individuals and families are facing huge stresses with both high costs and lack of availability of health care services. 

Before the Affordable Care Act, which was passed into law in 2010 by an all-Democrat majority in Washington, Minnesota was renowned for having one of the best health care systems in our nation. We had some of the lowest uninsured rates, a program that covered those with pre-existing conditions and more.  Other states were trying to emulate Minnesota’s nation-leading system.

Sadly, the ACA put Minnesota’s health care into a tailspin, and our exemplary health care system was decimated. Since the advent of the “Unaffordable Care Act,” our premiums have skyrocketed, deductibles have quadrupled, thousands of Minnesotans have lost their health care plans, rural communities are losing health care access, and the individual health insurance market in our state was forced to the brink of collapse. 

Not only this, but Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, along with other communities in our area such as Alden and Blooming Prairie and others throughout the state, are losing key health care services. This causes much hardship for everybody, especially for the elderly. Much of this has been caused by the lower reimbursement rates of the ACA, which have put added stressors on already strained rural health care providers. 

So, what is the answer?  I am grateful that our Republican-led House and Senate in Minnesota have saved the individual market from imploding with several health care reforms recently passed into law. However, we have a lot more to do to get our state back to the exemplary health care system we previously had.

Last session, I chief authored three separate pieces of legislation with the goal of helping restore lost health care services to communities and reducing costs. One of those bipartisan bills, which created incentives for health care providers to locate in rural communities, made it into final legislation but was sadly vetoed by the governor. 

In addition, I have been networking with health care professionals and experts, both within and outside our state, to explore other creative ideas and solutions. I have been in communication with a doctor from Kansas to learn about direct primary care clinics, which have drastically reduced health care costs, including pharmaceutical costs, for many people. I would like to look at bringing that option to Minnesotans. It’s important that people have more choices, because that means lower costs and better access to health care.

One option that I am not in favor of is the “MinnesotaCare for all” buy-in that my Democrat colleagues and my opponent are pushing for. I appreciate their desire to look for solutions, and I am always willing to listen to ideas no matter which side of the aisle they come from. However, when evaluating any idea, it’s good practice to drill down and look at the consequences — especially the unintended consequences.

MinnesotaCare has the lowest reimbursement rate of any of our government health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. It pays around 50 cents to the dollar for what health care services cost. Offering a MinnesotaCare buy-in for all Minnesotans would take a huge number of people who are currently on full reimbursement insurance plans and put them into a program that pays our hospitals and clinics half of what it costs to operate. This would a tragedy for Minnesota and put our already stressed rural hospitals and clinics out of business.

If we think we have an issue now with a lack of nearby access to health care, we will have to think again if the MinnesotaCare buy-in option comes to fruition. We will be driving to Mankato, Rochester or the Twin Cities for all our services. Why not, instead, continue to look for creative ideas like I’ve mentioned above to lower health care costs and give people more choice without decimating our rural health care?

Since I was elected, I have worked to lower health care costs, supported reforms that have halted double-digit premium increases on the individual market, and increased the number of health care choices. I have valued attending the Save Our Hospital/Healthcare meetings from the beginning to keep updated on people’s thoughts and concerns, meetings with Mayo personnel and city and county leaders and networking with health care experts throughout our state and nation.

I am looking forward, with your support, to putting all I’ve learned about health care, along with the experience and seniority I’ve gained in the Legislature these past four years, to go to work for you in health care and more next session. I am ready to hit the ground running and would love to continue as your state representative!

Republican District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett is from Albert Lea.