Weâ€™ve been hearing a lot about health care lately, and with good reason. Just the other day, driving home from work I heard a disturbing story about a pharmaceutical company that has a drug that can cure several types of cancer. What does it cost, you might ask? The company argues it can charge what the market will bear, even though the drug was developed by research funded by taxpayer money. The market indicates $100,000 is not too much to pay.
And you may have heard about the Toyota plant that went to Canada because employee insurance costs in the U.S. were costs that were too much to bearâ€¦.
Healthcare and health insurance costs us as a society in many ways. It cuts at the heart of what has been the critical debate shaping our democracy: Are we, as the Declaration of Independence says, created equal, with inalienable rights, or are we free individuals throwing off the tyranny of taxation?
Our nation was born in the lofty struggle for both equality and freedom. These are virtues that many have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect; yet they are also values that are not always in agreement. We cannot be totally free if we are bound to each other for the common good.
If we truly meant to charge government to do as our constitution says, â€œ to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterityâ€ — and if we truly believe in this, then it seems pretty clear how we ought to solve the problem.
The central purpose of healthcare insurance is to spread risk around so that no individual is left to suffer the full weight of the hardship of the cost of medical care. Ideally, the best insurance should be available to everyone. We are not all equal in our need, or in the outcomes of our circumstances, but we ought to be equal in protections. Universal coverage is the only way to accomplish this.
Recently I have been learning more about single-payer health insurance, which essentially is a Medicare-like program where everyone would be insured. Insurance that would be managed by the government, but hospitals and doctors could still be private entities. The reason this model being talked about, as a viable option is that it has great potential for reducing health care cost while it covers everyone.
So why is it so difficult to get this plan for all Americans? For years this issue has been controlled by rich special interests of insurance and drug companies that gain huge profits from being able to tell us what kind of health care program we ought to have. Perhaps the only way around this is to develop some state models that will show the Federal government how it can be done.
The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition has a plan to make it possible in Minnesota. They support returning the administration of our state health programs (MA, GAMC and MN Care) to the state, eliminating the role of costly HMOs in the administration of these programs. To date, there is no evidence the state-mandated presence of HMOs in the state programs has reduced costs nor improved quality. The cost savings incurred from a return to DHS administration would reduce the need to cut benefits and/or people from the rolls of these programs. A Prescription Drug Purchasing Bill (SF 22/HF 839) which would require the formation of large drug purchasing pools to create leverage in negotiating prices with drug manufacturers, resulting in significant cost savings and a universal, single-payer health plan for the state of Minnesota (SF 414/HF 481).
There is also conversation among other groups to incrementally move us toward single payer health care by providing a single payer system for all children in the state of Minnesota.
Kip Sullivan of The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition will be back in Northfield to talk about these ideas in early April watch for an announcement.