Health care conundrum

Reforming the state’s health care system is a necessary but difficult task.

As the state Legislature continues to work out a plan to address state health care needs, a study released Monday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shed some more light on how bad the situation is in Minnesota. While certainly not the worst state in the county, Minnesota shows disappointing rates of insurance coverage, and no clear solutions are in sight.

The study estimated that 440,000 Minnesotans are without any type of health insurance. That’s about 8.5 percent of the state’s population that has no protection. Perhaps the most disturbing trend revealed by the study is that between 2001 and 2005, the average insurance premium rose a staggering 29 percent while the median income level didn’t budge. In that same time period, the number of individuals with health insurance fell by 6 percent.

The Legislature is currently working on the final version of a health care bill that promises to reform the state’s health care system. It’s unclear how much the bill will really accomplish. Some proponents have estimated that 100,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans would be covered by provisions in the bill, but even that estimate falls short of the need. The bill also looks to alter the way doctors and hospitals are reimbursed to reward positive outcomes in patient care, but this new plan is sure to have shortcomings.

Our health care is such an inherently complicated system that it is too much to expect radical changes overnight. Reforms are certainly needed, and while the bill is a step forward, it will still leave thousands of Minnesotans without coverage. Our state has been rated one of the healthiest in the nation in the past, and we hope that this year’s legislation is just the beginning of continued reforms. The health of our citizens must continue to be a priority and we should strive for more complete coverage.