Minnesota's high ranking as a healthy state is in danger of slipping. In particular, we have a pipeline problem in the form of reduced prenatal care, early screening for poor children, and increasing childhood obesity.
Some of the contributing factors are described in "Can we close the coverage gap?", Minnesota Physician magazine (Sept. 2006). Here's a summary of points from the studies, "The Coverage Gap" and "Health Insurance Coverage in Minnesota," reported by the MP magazine authors.
While Minnesota has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation, the state's rate of uninsured increased by 30% between 2001 and 2004 — from 5.7% to 7.4%. The picture looks much worse for some, especially those served by the MinnesotaCare insurance program for the poor, which had its funding cut in 2001. Subsequent restoration of some funds has failed to restore coverage levels.
- For minorities, the uninsurance rate is much higher than the state average — Latinos (34%), American Indians (21%) and African Americans (13%).
- The rate of uninsurance for children 5 and under has increased from 3.9% to 6.8% during the same period. That means these kids are at risk of missing important screening and immunizations, starting them off in life with a long-term health disadvantage. TheChildren's Defense Fund estimates that 68,000 Minnesota children are without health care coverage
- For those living below the poverty line, 21% do not have health insurance.
- Due to cost, 46% of uninsured Minnesotans were unable to see a doctor when they needed to — compared to 41% nationwide and much higher than in neighboring states. By foregoing care now, the uninsured risk worsening and more costly conditions later.
Minnesota's large employers helped keep down the state's low uninsurance rate, but that's changing:
- Employer-sponsored health coverage dropped from 68.4% to 63%.
- Premiums for employer plans have increased.
- Fewer workers are eligible for employer plans, are self-employed or work for companies that don't offer plans.
Employers, the insurance industry, the medical profession, struggling families and the government all have a stake in solving the problems caused by the insurance gap, which ultimately adds to the costs borne by all. But politically, a legislative solution can't focus only on the poor, when middle income families' budgets are also being stretched by healthcare costs.
Healthcare is a key contributor to the state's economic growth and prosperity. Here are some groups working toward access to affordable care for all Minnesotans.