When the lottery of life leaves a Minnesotan injured or ill, they should have affordable access to Minnesota’s first-rate health care system regardless of their income or country of origin. A series of draft recommendations approved by the Governor’s Health Care Finance Task Force on January 21 would move our state towards that goal. Of the 33 recommendations passed by the task force, four stood out as particularly bold steps forward. These recommendations would:
- Restore many working families’ eligibility for MinnesotaCare. The task force proposed revised eligibility rules for MinnesotaCare, Minnesota’s affordable coverage option for working people. The proposal increases the income cut-off from 200 to 275 percent of the federal poverty line, or from about $24,000 to $33,000 for a single adult. Families in this income range often struggle to meet their basic needs. Restoring eligibility for MinnesotaCare to roughly where it was prior to 2014 will ensure that more Minnesotans have access to high-quality insurance when it isn’t offered through their jobs.
- Provide affordable health care coverage options for undocumented immigrants and their families. Every day, about 95,000 undocumented immigrants in Minnesota are strengthening our state’s communities and local economies. They pay taxes and fill important job openings, but many lack access to affordable health care because of their immigration status. The task force report suggests extending MinnesotaCare eligibility to our neighbors without considering where they were born. Since illness and injury show no regard for a person’s country of origin, it makes sense that we would structure our health care policy to do the same.
- Maintain a vital funding source that supports health insurance for low-income Minnesotans. The revenue from a 2 percent tax on health care services is a vital source of funding for health care coverage for many Minnesotans who would otherwise lack an affordable option. The task force recommends that rather than allowing the provider tax to expire, policymakers should make it permanent, which would keep MinnesotaCare on sound financial footing.
- Collect better data so that the state can hone in on racial disparities in health care. Minnesota’s racial disparities in income and education have rightly gotten a lot of attention, and we can see similar gaps in health care coverage and in general health. Advocates from communities of color have pointed out a need for more (and better) data, which will equip us to roll up our sleeves and get to work knocking down barriers to care.
The task force was made up of 29 people, including policymakers; others who represent the workers, providers and insurers in the health care system; and community members. They were asked to make recommendations to the Legislature on how Minnesota can improve access to affordable, quality health care coverage.
In spite of such a large mission and a diverse range of views, the recommendations passed with 20 affirmative votes and just five votes in the negative. The Legislature should pick up where the task force left off and translate these recommendations into policies to make Minnesota a place where everyone can get the health care they need, regardless of their income or their immigration status.