Legislators: When it Comes to Healthcare, Prioritize these 3 Points

In the final days of the Minnesota state legislative session, important decisions are being made behind closed doors and away from public input. Lawmakers have until midnight on Monday, May 22, to decide on a budget for Minnesota. As of today, no budgets have been passed.

Who will be prioritized and who will be hurt by the decisions made? For example, legislators are proposing as much as $500 million in cuts to the Health and Human Services budget, cuts that will fall on real people.

Legislators should keep these three points in mind as they negotiate about healthcare:

1) Stop the $500 million in cuts to programs that make sure families and children have access to quality healthcare. Our state has a budget surplus, and the Legislature has found nearly $900 million in funds this session to prop up insurance companies. These $500 million in cuts will destabilize the public programs that provide coverage for one in five Minnesotans at a time when federal uncertainty threatens these same programs. These cuts are the wrong direction. Human life should be valued more than a tax cut for those of us in this state who have the most resources.

2) Keep MinnesotaCare in place by maintaining a way for Minnesotans to enroll in the program through a public portal. Proposals to eliminate MNsure could effectively destroy MinnesotaCare by making it impossible for people to have clear public access to signing up. The federal exchange will not work for this, and MinnesotaCare offers essential support for about 100,000 Minnesota families. It should not be threatened.

3) Protect public assets with strong language that deals with HMO conversions to for-profit companies. The language recommended by Attorney General Lori Swanson, and included in the original Senate HHS bill, is essential. Weakening those protections is not acceptable. HMOs should not be allowed to walk away with $7 billion in assets and $3 billion in reserves built up with public help. That is our money.

Our representatives need to figure out a state budget. As they do, they need to look beyond the numbers at how their choices affect Minnesotans.

Jonathan Maurer-Jones is an LSP organizer specializing in healthcare issues. He can be reached at 218-213-4008 or via e-mail. For more in LSP's Affordable Healthcare for All work, click here.