All Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to live healthy lives and get the treatment they need for asthma, diabetes, or a broken bone. According to new U.S. Census data, in 2017 fewer Minnesotans had health insurance, meaning more Minnesotans were not able to get the care they need to thrive. Minnesota has been a national leader in health care, even prior to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because of state investments in affordable health care and the well-being of our residents. However, this decline in coverage comes at a time when investment in health care is under threat at both the state and federal levels.
In 2017, 4.4 percent of Minnesotans went without health insurance at some point during the year, compared to last year when 4.1 percent of Minnesota were uninsured. This is substantially lower than the 8.2 percent of Minnesotans who didn’t have health insurance for at least part of the year in 2013, the year before the total roll out of the Affordable Care Act. While Minnesota’s uninsurance ranking is fourth best in the nation, we need to build on this progress.
Affordable health care allows Minnesotans, their families, and their communities to thrive. Children with health care coverage perform better in school. Health insurance allows workers to stay healthy and succeed at work. More people with health coverage also reduces strains on the health care system: fewer people struggle with medical debt and health care providers see a reduction in uncompensated care.
Unfortunately, over the past two years, Congress has considered multiple proposals to cut federal funding and consumer protections in health care. These proposals would threaten the health coverage of over one million Minnesotans who are able to see doctors and get their prescriptions filled through Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s Medicaid program, or MinnesotaCare, which provides affordable coverage for Minnesotans paid low wages. Cutting affordable health care options would move Minnesota backward.
Looming cuts to health care are also threatened at the state level. In 2019, policymakers must act to extend the Provider Tax, a significant funding source for affordable health care options and other important programs that help Minnesotans stay healthy. If not, this funding will disappear and many Minnesotans’ health coverage could come under threat. Now is not the time to cut state investments in Minnesotans’ health.
Importantly, investments through the ACA and Minnesota’s smart policy choices have allowed folks who traditionally have been left on the fringes of the health care system such as people of color, low-wage and part-time workers, people with pre-existing conditions, and others struggling to make ends meet, to see doctors and get the care they need to stay healthy. Despite the progress Minnesota has made, these communities still face significant barriers to getting treatment for their critical health needs.
Today’s Census data reflects Minnesota’s strong historical investment in health care. Now is the time to build on these successes.