Legislature: Move Forward, Not Backward, on MinnesotaCare

NOTE: Land Stewardship Project Healthcare Organizing Committee member Al Kruse recently wrote this letter to the editor of the Marshall Independent:

The April 27 Marshall Independent editorial about healthcare gets one important thing right: We have a lot of work to do to make quality, affordable healthcare available in our rural communities.

Unfortunately, it is not clear how much this Legislature prioritizes it. The editorial said: “People like Chris Swedzinski, Gary Dahmes, Joe Schomacker and Bill Weber have long been champions of rural healthcare and that is comforting.”

For two years I have been involved in the effort to keep MinnesotaCare and I was just at the capitol last week. Last year Rep. Schomacker and Rep. Swedzinski voted for the House Health and Human Services bill that would have eliminated MinnesotaCare. Fortunately, in 2015 the Minnesota Senate refused to concur to the House bill and the final conference committee recommendation did not include the language to discontinue MinnesotaCare.

This year our area legislators in the Minnesota House switched gears and on April 28 voted for the Health and Human Services bill, HF 3467. It keeps MinnesotaCare but disqualifies farmers, small business people and working people currently enrolled in MinnesotaCare. It does this by creating an "asset test" for MinnesotaCare. A family with $20,000 in assets would be knocked off MinnesotaCare and left to fend for themselves with the expensive premiums and high deductibles offered by private insurance companies.

How would anyone building a small business or farming qualify? Instead of affordable premiums and no deductible on MinnesotaCare, they would have to pay three to five times more per month with a huge deductible. This is not being a "champion of rural healthcare."

We need our area rural legislators to tell Rep. Matt Dean from Dellwood Minn., (a suburb of St. Paul) and the chair of the House and Human Services Finance Committee that this approach of disqualifying thousands of rural Minnesotans is unacceptable. Being a legislative champion means stopping further harm to outstate Minnesota, but it also means being proactive by addressing and fixing key items like the "family glitch" that blocks the whole family from being eligible for public programs or a tax credit offered on the exchange if just one family member has access to "affordable" insurance through an employer.

MinnesotaCare was a bipartisan initiative that passed under the leadership and administration of Governor Arne Carlson.

It works and it should be kept.

Land Stewardship Project member Al Kruse lives in Marshall, Minn. For more in LSP's work to reform healthcare, see the Affordable Healthcare for All page.