The Land Stewardship Project works for solutions to the healthcare crisis in rural Minnesota because we know that lack of affordable, high-quality care is a major barrier to having thriving rural communities with more farmers on the land. We are pleased to see that Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s proposed Budget for One Minnesota includes many significant steps forward toward a healthcare system that meets all Minnesotans’ needs, including farmers, small business owners and self-employed people.
Some key positive highlights of the budget are:
• By continuing the healthcare provider tax, it prevents an approximately $700-million-a-year hole in the Health Care Access Fund, which is used to fund public health programs and healthcare for one million Minnesotans enrolled in Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. The Health Care Access Fund is created by a fee that providers pay on their gross revenue, which has been a dependable formula for over 20 years. The Health Care Access Fund was created with bipartisan leadership and signed into law by Governor Arne Carlson in 1992. But as part of a deal to end the state government shutdown in 2011, Republican leadership of the Minnesota House and Senate struck an agreement with Governor Mark Dayton to set a sunset date of December 2019 on the provider tax. Stopping the sunset does not create a new tax—it simply continues what has worked well for decades to ensure stable funding for Medicaid and MinnesotaCare.
• Using money from the Health Care Access Fund, the budget also provides direct help in two ways for Minnesotans facing unaffordable health insurance premiums on the individual market. First, it creates a 20 percent premium subsidy for Minnesotans who don’t qualify for public programs or for federal premium subsidies offered through MNsure. Up to 80,000 Minnesotans could participate in this program. Second, it establishes a state-based health insurance tax credit by 2021 that is designed to help ensure that Minnesotans on the individual market spend no more than 10 percent of their income on healthcare. Up to 50,000 Minnesotans could be eligible.
• It creates a public option for healthcare coverage that will provide an opportunity to buy into a comprehensive program offering 90 percent actuarial value (meaning the plan pays for 90 percent of a person’s healthcare costs), with a provider network and benefit set similar to Minnesota’s popular MinnesotaCare program. This will include dental, vision and behavioral health services and is broader than what is currently available in the market.
• It proposes the creation of a uniform pharmacy benefit and dental benefit for the state’s public programs, including the buy-in option. It is important that our Governor is looking at using the state’s purchasing power to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals and dental care for Minnesotans. Rising prescription drug prices are a leading driver of healthcare costs. Access to dental care, especially for those who get their health insurance coverage through Medicaid, is a major problem in rural Minnesota, and this plan would increase the availability of these services.
Most important of all, Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan’s healthcare budget proposal moves us forward toward a high-quality healthcare system that takes care of everyone and frees Minnesotans to pursue meaningful lives. We need healthcare that is comprehensive, lifelong and not tied to a person’s work. Coverage must be available at a cost that each family can truly afford. We all need quality medical care to be available close to home and when we need it. The Walz-Flanagan Budget for One Minnesota proposal on healthcare represents groundbreaking progress toward these shared values.
LSP organizers Johanna Rupprecht and Paul Sobocinski work on the organization's Affordable Healthcare for All initiative. For more on this initiative, click here.