Guest Columnist: Don't cut MinnesotaCare
I am writing as a county commissioner and as someone who depended on MinnesotaCare for health insurance coverage. Quite a few years ago, my wife and kids were on MinnesotaCare. My wife worked full time for a small publisher, and I worked for a sm...
I am writing as a county commissioner and as someone who depended on MinnesotaCare for health insurance coverage. Quite a few years ago, my wife and kids were on MinnesotaCare. My wife worked full time for a small publisher, and I worked for a small nonprofit. My wife's employer did not offer health insurance and my employer only offered single coverage. Our kids had chronic ear infections, so we happily paid the premiums from our small wages, knowing their care would be covered under MinnesotaCare. Since then, we have been fortunate -- we both now have jobs that offer health insurance.
Not all Minnesotans have the option to get better jobs that offer health insurance. In fact, approximately 27,000 working, single adults still rely on MinnesotaCare for their insurance coverage.
Governor Tim Pawlenty is proposing to change eligibility and coverage for MinnesotaCare, which means these 27,000 individuals will no longer have medical coverage. The governor says this will save money for the state of Minnesota. The fact is, these individuals will no longer go to their primary care physician for preventative care, but, instead, will utilize more expensive emergency room treatment as a last resort.
This not only hurts the individual and his or her family, it adds a huge burden on medical providers, and ultimately costs more as the medical industry shifts the burden to other Minnesotans who have medical coverage.
It's pretty typical for the uninsured to use the emergency rooms as the means to get their health care. Emergency rooms are required to treat individuals experiencing a medical emergency without regard to payment source.
The cost of treating individuals who do not have insurance or an ability to pay, considered uncompensated care, amounted to $13.4 million at Duluth area hospitals in 2002. Uncompensated care will certainly increase if more individuals no longer have medical coverage because of the governor's changes.
As a county commissioner and chair of the St. Louis County Health and Human Services Committee, I have asked the governor to look for other ways to save money in the state's budget. It seems obvious to me that cutting MinnesotaCare will increase costs for local health care providers, for local governments and for everyone with medical insurance as the costs for uncompensated care are shifted.
I urge you to join me in contacting the governor and demanding that he keep MinnesotaCare as an option for hardworking Minnesotans.
Steve O'Neil is the 2nd District St. Louis County Commissioner, representing most of the eastern half of Duluth. He may be reached by phone at 726-2359.