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Coalition Applauds Senate Passage of MinnesotaCare Public Option

Urges Lawmakers to Adopt House Language to Allow Minnesota Adults without Status into MinnesotaCare

Saint Paul, Minn. – Today a broad coalition of labor, rural, immigrant, arts and advocacy groups applauded the Minnesota Senate for passing a MinnesotaCare Public Option proposal (SF2995) in the health omnibus budget bill. The MinnesotaCare Public Option expands access to affordable health coverage by allowing more Minnesotans the option of buying into MinnesotaCare, paying a premium based on their income. Organizations and advocates urged lawmakers to adopt the House bill language (HF2930) that allows all Minnesotans without status to access MinnesotaCare. As passed, the Senate bill only allows children without status to access MinnesotaCare, leaving behind thousands of Minnesotans without status who are frontline workers.

The MinnesotaCare Public Option bill expands eligibility to Minnesotans enrolled in the individual health insurance market who earn more than the current MinnesotaCare income limit, which is 200% of the federal poverty line or $55,000 per year for a family of four. The MinnesotaCare Public Option immigrant inclusion policy would end the ban on eligibility for undocumented immigrants, allowing them to enroll in MinnesotaCare and contribute to their coverage at the same affordable premiums paid by other Minnesotans at their income level.

“The goal of the MinnesotaCare Public Option is to create greater access to affordable health coverage, and we can’t leave anyone behind,” said Robert Haider, legislative director of TakeAction Minnesota. “MinnesotaCare immigrant inclusion has broad support from advocacy groups as well as hospitals, health plans, and medical associations. We must end the MinnesotaCare ban on Minnesotans without status, which has left thousands of workers and families without health care when they need it most.”

Dozens of community, faith, health, farmer and immigrant organizations including the Minnesota Medical Association, health plans, and hospitals support the MinnesotaCare immigrant inclusion policy. If adopted, Minnesota would join the District of Columbia, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and California in providing health coverage to individuals regardless of immigration status.

Dr. Katherine Guthrie, a 43-year practicing physician of the Rural Organizing Project of ISAIAH said, “As frontline family physicians we struggle every day to provide care that our patients are able to afford. I highly support the expanded MinnesotaCare option on behalf of my patients. We do not need to have Minnesotans dying for lack of access to healthcare.”

Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, a nonprofit based in St. Paul and Fergus Falls that works with 20,000 artists a year, said, “Like other small business owners and gig workers, artists are disproportionately self-employed and often have variable income making it difficult to access adequate health insurance. We hear over and over again that the primary barrier for these entrepreneurs is access to affordable and useful health insurance. Expanded access to MinnesotaCare would help many artists and creative workers make their lives more sustainable and access more reliable and affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. Passing a public option will help make sure that Minnesota is a place where culture, innovation, small businesses and local economies can thrive and grow.”

Kate Lynch, LPN, a member of SEIU Healthcare MN & IA said, “All too often, caregivers like me watch our patients delay or skip necessary medical care because they can’t afford the high out-of-pocket expenses. I’m also a concerned mother. I have two adult sons … currently they are both covered under my health plan but soon they will age off. I worry that they won’t have good health insurance. This bill means parents like me can sleep a little easier.”

Gary Wertish, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union shared that the top issue coming forward for farmers is the high cost of health care. Wertish said he’s heard from farmers that, “If we really want to help agriculture, you can do something about health care – not only to help current farmers but to pass on to the next generation.”

The Minnesota Department of Health Services estimates that 300,000 Minnesotans are uninsured. A disproportionate number of uninsured Minnesotans are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color and 17% are undocumented immigrants. The MinnesotaCare Public Option proposal would reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans and provide an affordable option to individuals and families on the individual market, who can often face high healthcare costs including deductibles from $7,000 to $20,000, along with high premiums and out-of-pocket healthcare costs. These high costs are particularly burdensome to people whose incomes vary year to year, including farmers and artists.

The state’s current approach to subsidizing the individual marketplace is expensive and unsustainable. Currently, about $570 million per biennium goes to federal subsidies for 69,000 Minnesotans on the individual market through Advanced Premium Tax Credits. Over $1 billion on reinsurance has not fixed Minnesota's failing individual health insurance market or expanded coverage. Instead of continuing to spend enormous resources subsidizing a broken health insurance system, Minnesota can use our healthcare dollars toward a better quality, affordable public health insurance option.

The MinnesotaCare Public Option would be paid for with state and federal funds, premiums, and cost-sharing. Premiums will be set by state agencies to ensure affordability and prevent sudden increases in costs. If the MinnesotaCare Public Option is passed this year, agencies will begin conducting an actuarial analysis to determine how many Minnesotans are likely to enroll in the public option and determine the premium costs. Minnesota’s Department of Health Services will also start the process of applying for the federal waiver to redirect federal healthcare dollars to the public option. Learn more mncarenow.org.

 

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