Last month, I had the privilege to be a part of something special in Minnesota when a whole lot of groups that aren’t usually all on the same page came together to support MinnesotaCare.
MinnesotaCare has been making affordable health insurance available to working families for more than 20 years through a state-federal partnership. MinnesotaCare enrollees pay lower premiums than they would for private insurance, have low out-of-pocket costs and a benefit set that meets their needs. And thanks to legislation passed last year by the state Legislature and signed by Governor Dayton, MinnesotaCare is now an even better option for families who can’t afford to buy quality private insurance. Premiums have been reduced, limits on inpatient hospital coverage are gone, and waiting periods have been eliminated.
It is widely acknowledged that MinnesotaCare is a lifeline for hard-working Minnesotans. These are ordinary people - an employee of a small company, a family trying to keep working the farm, or an entrepreneur taking the risk of starting her own business. For many of these folks, MinnesotaCare is the only affordable way they can meet the new federal requirement to have health insurance coverage.
But a wave of concern rippled through the state when we learned that federal funding for MinnesotaCare could fall far short of expectations beginning in 2015. The reason: a proposed federal funding formula fails to take into account unique conditions in our state arising from our years of nation-leading health care reform.
Fortunately, the federal government gave states like Minnesota an opportunity to make a case for fairer levels of funding to provide affordable health insurance options for low- and moderate-income families.
And Minnesota’s elected officials, state agency officials, nonprofit organizations, religious leaders, health care industry professionals and many others stepped up. Voices from across Minnesota sent a clear message to Washington – the federal government needs to come up with a fairer formula so that affordable health insurance for Minnesotans is not placed in jeopardy.
We aren’t likely to know the outcome of our united effort until the federal government announces the final funding formula in late March. But, for now, it’s inspiring to know that when the future of MinnesotaCare was threatened, Minnesotans stepped up to preserve it. In a time when division seems to define our society, it was a moment when we united to bring hope to more than a hundred thousand of our fellow Minnesotans.