Sen. Jasinski: Concerns about single payer health insurance

Concerns about single payer health insurance

By: Senator John Jasinski

Health insurance rates are going down thanks to our reforms over the last two years, but I still have had several people come up to me saying, “John, I appreciate everything you’re doing but I’m still paying too much for health insurance through my employer. This MinnesotaCare buy-in is looking pretty attractive.”

Believe me, I get it. We’re heading the right direction, but insurance costs are still outrageous for many families. I’m sympathetic when people are drawn in by the allure of free health care.

It’s a problem I think about every day, and it’s not a partisan issue. I have great relationships with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We have constant conversations to exchange ideas, and I am willing to entertain good ideas wherever they originate.

But I have a number of concerns about MinnesotaCare buy-in and single payer health care.

First, when somebody tells you they support the MinnesotaCare buy-in, the first thing you should do is ask for specifics – because so far there are few.

Here’s what we do know: government-sponsored health insurance doesn’t live up to the hype.

  • Look at the VA, which has been an unmitigated disaster for years — months-long wait times, patients dying while waiting for service, and administrators covering up errors and delays. This future awaits us all with MinnesotaCare buy-in.
  • Three-quarters of Medicare patients rely on supplemental private insurance coverage because there are so many gaps in their government plan.
  • In many areas, doctors have stopped accepting MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance patients. They simply can’t afford it due to the low payment rates for those plans.

It will get worse. Hospitals will close, just like the hospital in Austin did.

Nearly 40% of hospitals are already losing money. The Minnesota Hospitals Association said MinnesotaCare buy-in would “jeopardize the financial footing” of Minnesota hospitals. The former CEO of Mayo Clinic, an iconic Minnesota institution, said without privately-insured patients they “won’t have income at the end of the year to pay our staff, pay the pensions, and so on.”

One nonprofit estimated that MinnesotaCare buy-in will cost $35 billion every year. We would have to double Minnesota’s $48 billion budget overnight just to cover it. What do you think that would do to your tax bill?

Even California and Vermont abandoned their attempts at a single payer model because it was too expensive. In Vermont, they discovered it would have almost doubled the annual state budget from $5m to over $9m. In California, the price tag was $400 billion annually.

Those are a lot of red flags that need to be addressed.

Just getting MinnesotaCare buy-in up and running is no guarantee. The plan requires a $112 million up front investment for a reserve fund and initial infrastructure.

After MNLARS, MNsure, the recent Department of Human Services data breach, and countless other technology failures, how much confidence do you have that $112 million is an accurate figure, and that development would go smoothly and efficiently? Because I have none.

We have made improvements but we still have a long way to go. I’d like to see us continue on a path toward a thriving competitive marketplace, that offers numerous affordable choices but also offers protection for those with pre-existing conditions. We did this before MNsure, and we can do it again.

While I don’t serve on the health committees, I understand the importance of the issue and I am giving it my full attention. No matter what happens this November, next session we will all have to come together to figure out our path forward.


This column originally ran in the Owatonna People’s Press.