Corporate power of HMOs has gone too far
To the editor:
Four years ago, I became a member of Land Stewardship Project’s Health Care Organizing Committee. I was concerned that the cost of health care was becoming more unfordable for many. I was proud to play a role in a 400+ meeting three years ago with Minnesota’s Commissioner of Commence organized by Land Stewardship Project, TakeAction Minnesota, Churches United in Ministry and others that pushed for Minnesota to set up its own health care exchange called MNsure. I worked hard in that meeting and in the legislative effort that created MNsure to see that insurance companies could not be part of the Minnesota exchange board.
Minnesota, by creating its own health care exchange has enrolled in its first year over 300,000 Minnesotans. Minnesota made the most use of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called by many as Obama Care, by getting extra federal dollars for an expanded Medicaid for the very poor and continued and strengthen Minnesota Care for low moderate income people.
This works well for many beginning farmers and as a result of having our own exchange, we now have the 2nd lowest premiums in the nation. Minnesota is now seeing a drop in the number of uninsured by over 40 percent.
While the ACA and MNsure are a step in the right direction, it does not effectively stop the insurance companies (HMO’s) from excessive profits they make off of our health. Health care belongs in the public sphere not in the private sphere where we saw HMO’s like Aetna double their CEO’s salary to $30.7 million in 2013. It was appalling in this last legislative session when HMOs tried to get an exemption to a bill (H.F.2167/S.F.1770) that would require businesses
that contract with the state to disclose how they spend public money. HMOs get public dollars to administer most of the state’s public programs like Medicaid and Minnesota Care.
Two years ago the governor, through an administrative order, placed a cap on HMO profits from public programs. How can you cap their profits if they don’t have to disclose? Rep. Liebling, Rochester, attempted an amendment to require HMOs to disclose their management of Medicaid and Minnesota Care dollars to the legislative leaders who are responsible for overseeing the Health and Human Service budget. It did not pass because of the lobbying power of the HMOs. Fortunately an amendment by Rep. David Bly, Northfield, did pass. It requires HMOs 2014 to have to disclose by June of 2015.
Finally, I would like Minnesota to build off of MNsure and work for a health care system in which everyone is in, no one is out, one big pool that has a low administrative cost like Medicare.