The newly-minted Health Care Financing Task Force has an opportunity to outline a path where no Minnesotan has to forgo medical care because they can’t afford a visit to the doctor. We encourage the group to craft recommendations strengthening the public health insurance channels that allow more than one million Minnesotans to access health care. This work should be done with an eye towards the fact that the people likely to be most affected by efforts to strengthen or weaken public health insurance options will be those Minnesotans that struggle the most to afford private insurance. This includes a disproportionate share of women, adults with disabilities and people of color.
The Task Force was created in the 2015 Legislative Session, and met for the first time last Friday. It is charged with issuing recommendations about increasing access to affordable health care coverage next January, in time for consideration by the 2016 Legislature.
For working-age Minnesotans (ages 19 to 64), public health insurance usually comes through MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance. Two-thirds of the families accessing these public routes to health care coverage contain at least one worker. In these situations, an employer may not offer health insurance, or the coverage they offer may be unaffordable.
The working-age adults covered through public health care channels disproportionately include women, adults with disabilities and Minnesotans of color. Specifically:
- Women make up roughly half of Minnesota’s working-age population. However, 12 percent more working-age women are covered through public avenues like MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance than working-age men.
- While Minnesotans of color represent 14 percent of Minnesota’s working-age population, more than one-quarter of Minnesotans gaining insurance through public health coverage are people of color.
- People with disabilities represent less than 10 percent of Minnesota’s working-age adults. However, they make up about a third of the people who find health insurance through a public channel.
Because public health care coverage is tied to income, it is not surprising that those who tend to earn less are also more likely to gain coverage through a public pathway. Women and people of color are likely to earn less than male and white workers, and adults with disabilities are also disproportionately likely to be working for minimum wage.
MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance are crucial for ensuring that people paid low wages have a path to affordable health insurance. Any proposals that weaken public health care coverage will mean those who struggle most in today’s economy will be hardest hit, including women, people of color and adults with disabilities.