This year Minnesota has taken real steps to put people at the center of our health care system. Most recently, Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature passed a budget that continues and strengthens MinnesotaCare. Thank you for your calls, e-mails and actions—you made a difference.
The final Health and Human Services Budget makes MinnesotaCare more affordable by reducing premiums 10 to 50 percent for the 130,000 lower-income Minnesotans who currently get their insurance through the program. Some of the barriers to enrolling in MinnesotaCare, namely the waiting period and asset cap, have also been removed. That means people who qualify will not have to go without insurance during a four-month waiting period, and they will qualify based solely on their income, with no test on assets like land, vehicles or savings accounts. Once these restrictions are removed in 2014, tens of thousands more people—many of whom currently go without insurance or make do with high-deductible coverage—will qualify for MinnesotaCare.
MinnesotaCare benefits will also be better starting in 2014. Most significantly, the $10,000 hospital cap will go away.
This win comes out of powerful organizing. Back in January, there were leaders in Minnesota who questioned whether or not it was a good idea to do the work necessary to keep and improve MinnesotaCare. Some considered letting the program expire and shifting participants to Minnesota’s new health exchange.
But Land Stewardship Project members and allies made it clear from the beginning that MinnesotaCare was a priority. We saw an opportunity to build on MinnesotaCare’s legacy to keep Minnesota moving forward, making progress towards a health care system that works for everyone, no exceptions.
LSP members joined with Minnesotans from across the state—from Duluth to the Twin Cities—to tell our own stories, the stories of real Minnesotans, urban and rural. These stories were critical to making decision-makers aware of what was at stake. A diverse coalition of people’s organizations worked together to show that MinnesotaCare is important to all our communities—especially self-employed farmers, communities of color, rural and urban residents with lower-paying jobs that don’t offer health insurance, and small-business people whose voices are often usurped by corporate lobbyists. Groups like TakeAction Minnesota, Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) in Duluth, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), ISAIAH and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, just to name a few, worked together for health care policies that would be good for all our communities.
In the end, our voices were heard loud and clear. Not only will MinnesotaCare still be available for individuals and families whose income is between 138 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line, but we also won an expanded Medicaid program that covers the poorest Minnesotans and a people-centered health exchange that will give people more collective power and better options when purchasing health insurance from big corporations.
We also asked that corporations be made to pay their fair share, and that they be held accountable for their use of public health care funds. In the whole of the state budget, some corporate tax loopholes were closed. That’s a very good thing for MinnesotaCare and health care funding across the board. It helps limit the game-playing and money-shifting that is too often employed in state budgets to cover for the missing revenue the corporations owe but avoid paying.
The Health and Human Services bill also reforms the way HMOs pay surcharges they owe the state, and caps what state-contracted HMOs are allowed to account toward administrative expenses. This means HMOs won’t get to hide big executive salaries under administrative expenses.
All in all, this session was a big step forward in putting people, not profits, at the center of health care in Minnesota.
Thank you for helping to make these key wins possible.