The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 16, 2014

Our View: Costs key in health care access

Why it matters: While thousands of uninsured have gained access to public programs the rising cost could be crippling

0000LightBlueWhile we can all celebrate the number of previously uninsured people who now have health care either through private insurance or a government program, Minnesota must keep a keen eye on costs that could eventually cripple these programs and curtail access.

Nearly 100,000 Minnesotans have signed up for medical assistance, Minnesota’s version of Medicaid, through MNsure, the state’s website for health insurance. Monthly average enrollment in the program will total about 835,000, a 13 percent increase from 2013.

A Star Tribune report notes that is the highest increase in 15 years and near the top of all states.

The numbers are expected to increase as Minnesota continues a strong push to educate and notify those who might qualify with some 800 so called navigators getting people signed up through MNsure.

The good news is that state officials say the rate of enrollment is likely helping push the state’s rate of uninsured people down to about 8 percent last year from a high of around 9 percent in 2011. Reducing the number of uninsured people also helps lower costs because people get preventive care instead of waiting to get seriously sick and going to the emergency room for costly care.

Other good news: Total health care costs in Minnesota also came in below projections, according to a report issued in December by the Minnesota Department of Health. Total costs, private and public, excluding federal Medicare and long-term care spending came in about 7 percent below projections at about $26 billion in 2011.

The bad news is that public health costs continue to rise at rates that are somewhat alarming. In 2009, government program health care costs in Minnesota grew 9 percent. Those rates of increase declined to 4.6 percent in 2010 and 4.7 percent in 2011, according to a mandated state report on the topic.

Those lower rates of growth come on the heels of some reforms including health care homes where health care was more coordinated, and payment reform including payment for outcomes instead of visits. Those programs may have helped push the rate of government spending down, but the report authors from the Department of Health say it may be too early to tell.

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