Minnesota legislators have announced several health care reform proposals they say will reduce health care spending by the state government to help lower the state’s looming budget deficit.
The proposals include requiring patients to enroll in medical homes; ending state payment for medical errors; implementing a licensing and preferential treatment program for birthing centers; additional charges for 24 hour emergency dental and mental health services provided through public clinics; and discouraging the use of C-section deliveries.
‘Health Care Welfare’
Leading the charge on the proposals are Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth) and Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis). They say the reforms are necessary to stem the rising tide of health care costs being faced by the government before they reach a projected $50 million annually in 2010.
“These proposals, as put forth by the DFL leadership, aren’t going to get the job done,” said Annette Meeks, CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota. “Instead, we should begin reforming the system by focusing on true cost drivers for private insurance, including reducing or eliminating the excessive number of health care mandates that Minnesota currently requires.
“We lead the nation in the number of health care mandates, and it’s just one of the many reforms we need to tackle if we’re serious about reforming health care in Minnesota,” Meeks said.
John LaPlante, a policy fellow with the Minnesota Free Market Institute, warns the effect of these proposals would be the opposite of what is intended.
“If these Democrat-Farm-Labor lawmakers get their way, the entire state will be engulfed in health care welfare, with all that entails,” said LaPlante.
“Many of these reform ideas are leftovers from the 2008 legislative session,” said Peter Nelson, a policy fellow for the Minnesota-based Center of the American Experiment.
“While some research shows medical homes to be effective, the bulk of the evidence is all over the place,” Nelson said. “So, ideally the marketplace should be the decider. Mandating medical homes is the wrong approach to the situation.
“DFL lawmakers are basically throwing out ideas without much evidence that there will be fiscal savings,” Nelson added.
Instead of focusing on the hodgepodge of reform ideas presented by the DFL, Nelson suggests policymakers “take a closer look at a proposal to move adults from MinnesotaCare, the state’s Medicaid program, into separate state-funded health reimbursement accounts coupled with individual catastrophic health care policies.
“A proposal like that could save state taxpayers’ money while providing individuals with more health care options,” Nelson said.
Calls for Consumer Control
In his most recent annual Index of Health Ownership, John R. Graham, director of health policy studies at the Pacific Research Institute, ranked Minnesota 49th of the 50 states for consumer control of health care.
Minnesota “suffers from extremely high Medicaid eligibility, poor innovation through [Medicaid] waivers, freeloading on federal taxpayers, and inadequate investment in prescriptions for its Medicaid population,” Graham wrote.
“With a $4.6 billion budget deficit—[even after] taking into account the federal stimulus money coming to Minnesota as a result of the American Relief and Reinvestment Act—it’s important for lawmakers to consider reforms that promote the free market and save taxpayers’ money,” said LaPlante.
Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas. Joe Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.
For more information …
“Index of Health Ownership 2008,” Pacific Research Institute: http://special.pacificresearch.org/pub/sab/health/2008/IHOP/