Wednesday, June 18, 2008 By Aaron Brown
But the rising cost of health care services facing everyday Americans remains in many ways more troubling. The reason for these price increases might be explainable, but remains much more complicated and outrageous when compared with the health care systems of other nations. Republicans blame trial lawyers and lawsuits for increasing insurance costs for doctors, which are passed on to patients. Democrats blame insurance and drug companies for jacking up costs. Who's right? Both, and more. The old days of people paying doctors for actual services rendered are long gone. We've passed the point where we can easily adopt a single-payer universal system. Basically, the United States -- and Minnesota -- are stuck trying to figure out an improved system on the fly while hundreds of millions in special interest dollars cloud the debate.
Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) visited Hibbing with his House health care committee last year. Unlike most of the politicians who call me to get in my column or blog, he actually followed up a year later. (A true gentleman). So I'm going to share what Rep. Thissen told me with you.
I thought you might be interested in a report on the state of health care and health coverage in Minnesota issued last week by Families USA: Failing Grades: State Consumer Protections in the Individual Health Insurance Market ( http://familiesusa.org/resources/publications/reports/failing-grades.html). The report reconfirms the two concerns that I hear most from around the state: health care is unaffordable even for those with insurance and people cannot get coverage due to a preexisting medical condition.Thissen and some allies have put together a website to explore Minnesota's health care options. Come for the creepy computerized talking doctor, stay for the worthy discussion of an important issue.
The bottom line is that Minnesota's current system discriminates against our sickest neighbors and friends. Those who need regular health care most are forced to pay more for coverage (if they can get it). I was also shocked that insurance companies have broad latitude to revoke coverage after the fact if a serious medical condition exists. That is a health care system turned on its head.
I should also point out that Minnesota ranks very well on other measures. That is not just a pat on our collective back. John McCain and Republicans in the Minnesota legislature propose to simply open the door to any insurer who wants to sell its product in the state regardless of whether the product complies with state law consumer protections. The Failing Grades report makes clear the danger of that approach. Minnesotans do and should expect that certain standards be met when it comes to health care and health insurance. States play a critical role in making sure expectations are met.