I attended my second town hall forum the other day in my district on the topic of health care in Minnesota.
At the town hall, legislative leaders and about 200 citizens discussed how, in Minnesota, before the election we were talking about expanding healthcare to undocumented residents and putting our state on a path to single-payer healthcare in Minnesota. It’s an idea still being kicked around, but mostly kicked toward the curb and without a chance to pass in the next few years. But to me, it makes a kind of simple sense. If we can agree we should care about others, we can turn to solutions that support those core beliefs, and look to our gov’t to fulfill that role.
There are 320 million Americans. Insurance operates on risk pools. Generally speaking, you expand the risk pool, you spread out/reduce the risk to any one individual. To me, it makes sense that as a “United States of America,” we are stronger together than we are as 320 million separate entities. And we are even stronger if we’re all as healthy as we can be. But unfortunately, some of us are born with health issues, and some develop them later, some are sudden (accident), some progressive and protracted (cancer).
Insurance companies treating health like it’s a free-market commodity divide people up into “target markets” they want to cover. They try to base coverage on age, perceived future health risks—all kinds of things that allow them to discriminate against individual Americans so they can get the healthiest risk pools and not have to pay out coverage.
The national ACA curbed the worst abuses of health insurance industry, including making insurance companies cover pre-exiting conditions, and giving young adults the ability to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26. It also said that a person can’t get kicked off insurance because you’re too expensive, and there’s not lifetime caps (we were the only industrialized nation in world where someone can go bankrupt because they got sick)—like, you get cancer, you spend $200,000, and you’re cutoff because you’re cutting into profits.
20 million more Americans have access to healthcare now because of it.
We were told at the town hall that one of most effective ways we can impact the process is to share our personal healthcare stories and experiences so that others, especially lawmakers, know the true human costs. This isn’t about economic theories like the free market will save everything, or keeping capitalism pure—it’s about human beings and treating each other right.
We have the money, but not the will. Get up the will.
We also heard presentations on how to advocate from a few groups working on the front lines of health care reform in Minnesota: Take Action Minnesota, the MN Nurses association, and the MN brain injury alliance.
What you can do
Phone calls to your legislators help—even if you think they’re already in agreement. They’ll fight harder for us if they know you’re behind them.
The new plan going through the Minnesota legislature now is much like the federal plan. It will cut benefits to 180,000 low-income elderly and disabled, because they’re the biggest cost to insurance companies. It will cut 690,000 low-income families with children, and 209,000 low-income adults w/o children.
Change your mindset. If friends and neighbors don’t have health care, should we be ok with that? Why do we keep trying to make the market work for insurers at the cost of patients? Reject the view that healthcare is a commodity to be bought and sold. Remove the profit motive, and remove the private health insurance industry entirely. We are 320 million Americans, stronger together.