Reform suggestions fall short

Health care task forces’ findings will save taxpayers money, but won’t improve access.

The cost to the state for health care in Minnesota, without reform, is projected to rise from the current $30 billion to $57.4 billion by 2015, said a health care task force appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The Governor’s task force recommended several initiatives focusing on doctors, hospitals, employers, patients, insurers, schools, communities and policy makers that could potentially save Minnesotans $12.3 billion. Of the recommendations, Pawlenty did not endorse either a mandate to require that all Minnesotans have health care coverage or an increase in the cigarette tax. A legislative task force also had similar findings and proposals.

Minnesota’s current health care payment system only rewards doctors for treating the sick. The task forces, however, want to alter this system by rewarding physicians that prevent illnesses. Other recommendations are to establish standards for schools in physical activity for students and require meals that exceed federal nutrition guidelines, to subsidize insurance for low-income people, to prohibit insurance premiums based on health status, to allow patients – regardless of their insurance plan – access to any hospital or physician and to make it easier for consumers to compare costs of different providers.

Pawlenty said the possible savings from some of the proposed initiatives, such as how doctors are rewarded, could be used to expand health care coverage and make it more affordable throughout Minnesota.

Money through savings for the uninsured, however, will not be seen immediately. While the health care task forces have proposed initiatives to better regulate health care providers, they do not adequately address the burden of the middle class. Without a requirement of all Minnesotans to have health coverage, taxpayers ultimately bear the burden of treatment costs for the uninsured.

In Minnesota, and throughout the United States, there is only the freedom to be uninsured and the freedom to be taken advantage of by health care providers. The task forces’ findings will save taxpayers’ money, but will do little to improve health care access.