Novel collaborations may lead the way in healthcare

Daily Editorial Board

Allina, one of Minnesota’s largest health care providers and Aetna, one of the United States’ leading health care insurers, recently announced the construction of a Minnesota-based insurance company providing commercial coverage to Minnesotans. This marks the beginning of a partnership with little precedence, where both provider of health care and insurer collaborate.

In the past, most health care ventures have largely been at the insurance level. Mergers between health care insurance providers have been a trend, though in the case of Aetna and Humana, the merger was blocked by federal agencies, on the basis that the $37 billion deal would raise prices for consumers.

With the expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act, though, it’s not possible to completely determine the future of these ventures.

Despite the seeming innovation of Allina and Aetna’s commercial venture, it is important for state agencies to remain cautious. While the deal will largely bolster competition within Minnesota’s market of health insurance providers, it may also bring up issues that could diminish the quality of care to patients.

First, by providing a new avenue to obtain health care, the new company — which hasn’t been formalized yet — will likely improve competition. By increasing the supply of health care insurance packages, theoretically, the cost of insurance should go down. This is the same reason why health insurance mergers are opposed by the government: Allowing one corporation to establish control over a region allows them to set prices at whatever level they want — and with issues of health, they know people will pay.

However, the merger does come with a risk. If the health care provider is tied down to one health insurance company, issues relating to conflict of interest could diminish the primary focus — care. Doctors who are part of the Allina system may think about their affiliation with Aetna when treating a patient on a different health insurance package. While there hasn’t been concrete evidence to suggest this will occur, it’s a possibility that cannot be ruled out.

In addition to the drawbacks, this deal also spotlights a key issue in which Minnesota has made important strides. Recently, in his State of the State address, Governor Dayton announced his plan to expand MinnesotaCare access to all people in the state. This expansion will drive down commercial cost while also providing a public option to anyone who cannot afford health insurance.

This news comes in the same week that a landmark study, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, announced that repealing the Affordable Care Act, nationally, will cause the death of approximately 44,000 people — showing the clear impact that health insurance has on one’s livelihood.

While many of the details have yet to be solidified in either of these plans, what’s abundantly clear is the progressive health care agenda that Minnesota has supported. With the dream of universal health care slowly withering with each day President Trump maintains control of the Oval Office, we hope that Minnesota can be a shining beacon where health care is affordable for all people.