Expanding MinnesotaCare world give everyone access to quality, affordable health care

Expanding MinnesotaCare world give everyone access to quality, affordable health care

Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care.

Right now, America’s broken health insurance system is failing to achieve that goal.

About 300,000 Minnesotans are uninsured, including undocumented residents, farmers, business owners and people like me who are self-employed. And even among those who are insured, tens of thousands of people are in high-deductible plans on the individual market. They have insurance, but it’s too expensive to actually use.

Our health care is expensive for the state and federal government, too. It costs hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize our broken health care system. We all need a better deal. This is why I’m passionate about a MinnesotaCare public option that will make more people eligible for public health insurance.

Working for years at the front desk of a community clinic was an education for me on how our current health insurance system works. I saw firsthand how private insurance can be prohibitively expensive. And, on the flip side, how affordable health care options can change people’s lives.

Like many Minnesotans, I’ve personally had many different kinds of insurance over the years, and I’ve encountered all kinds of horrible high-deductible plans, painfully large co-pays, and limited networks that kept me from seeing the right doctor to get the care I needed.

I went to graduate school to become a therapist so I could provide high quality mental health care to people in need. But even my services are difficult for many people to access, because many private insurance plans have very limited mental health coverage.

During graduate school, my income was low enough to qualify for MinnesotaCare — our state’s public health insurance program for the working poor — and the public health emergency has allowed me to keep that insurance while starting a new career.

MinnesotaCare coverage has been amazing, and I’ve never been in better health because I can actually afford to get physical therapy when I need it, access medical equipment and see specialists for chronic illnesses.

Basically, MinnesotaCare coverage lets me access ongoing care to address important health issues, so I can live a full life. I’ve learned what a game changer it can be to do more than an annual physical.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how I will make things work financially once I am required to start paying student loans again and no longer have access to public health care.

These financial burdens will hit many new professionals like me later this year.

It would be amazing for working Minnesotans like me to have another option. We have high enough income to disqualify us for MinnesotaCare, but we don’t earn enough to afford any private plans, even with tax credits. Many of my colleagues who are recent graduates have the same issue: We are all dreading the end of the public health emergency because we live close to paycheck-to-paycheck, and as independent contractors many of us don’t have benefits through our employers .

The MinnesotaCare public option is a possible pathway for many self-employed people to survive — and hey, maybe even economically thrive — in the wild economic landscape we all have to navigate these days. Many of us are health care providers. A public option can help us keep ourselves healthy, letting us keep working to support the health of other Minnesotans. A public option is a pathway to healing our broken system.

It is also critical that Minnesotans without immigration status can enroll in MinnesotaCare. About 51,000 Minnesotans are excluded from MinnesotaCare because of immigration status. These are people who have made tremendous sacrifices and who did front-line work at the height of the pandemic.

Without access to health insurance, it’s impossible to access preventive care or get timely help when something serious happens. This causes more health complications and forces many to rely on emergency care, driving up costs and ER wait times for everyone.

I urge Minnesota lawmakers to right these injustices this year by passing a MinnesotaCare public option. (The standalone bill is HF96/SF49; it’s been wrapped into a larger health care budget bill HF2930/SF2995.)

We must expand access to MinnesotaCare and include people regardless of immigration status, as the House has proposed. Please, let’s pass a MinnesotaCare public option that leaves nobody out.

Expanding MinnesotaCare is a win for all of us who have struggled to access affordable care, and a win for all Minnesotans who will benefit from lower prices and better health.

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