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LETTER: Schmit is leader on health care front


To the Editor:

As a nurse I see firsthand the strengths and shortcomings of our health care system. Fortunately, Sen. Matt Schmit does, too.

Some suggest that MNsure, our state-based health insurance exchange, is the problem. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that simple. A small, unstable and expensive individual market lacking choice and competition is the real problem, and cost drivers such as prescription drugs, overconsumption and chronic disease underlie it all.

This individual market failure impacts about five percent of Minnesotans, but to them this problem is a crisis. Finally, legislative leaders and the governor are waking up to the urgency of this matter. Meantime, Schmit has been working hard on solutions.

Following federal health care reform, Minnesota had a choice: throw our lot in with a one-size-fits-all federally administered health insurance exchange or retain some control and create a state-based exchange.

To throw the baby out with the bathwater and resort to the federal exchange is beyond foolish. It’s little more than a politically convenient message filling the void of good ideas. Worse, resorting to the one-size-fits-all federal exchange takes important state-based tools off the table.

Last fall, well before this issue reached its fever pitch, Schmit held a pair of summits examining health insurance issues. He invited Minnesota leaders down to hear our struggles. He consulted with his constituents and health experts to craft legislation pairing short-term premium relief with long-term cost containment. Area residents testified on these bills, and the legislation constituted the backbone of the Senate’s health care reform effort.

This legislation included state-based tax credits to make monthly premiums more affordable, expanded eligibility to allow individual market enrollees the chance to buy into public options available to working Minnesotans and state employees, reinsurance models similar to those undertaken in Alaska that provide premium stability, and an effort to redraw Minnesota’s federally mandated geographic rating area lines that contribute to southeastern Minnesota’s uncompetitive premiums.

Sadly, the Minnesota House chose to grandstand on MNsure rather than address underlying problems. Sound familiar?

Let’s give Senator Schmit a House willing to work with him on state-based health care reform.

 Ellen Franz

Cannon Falls