Lead by example in tackling health care insurance crisis

Health care insurance coverage in Minnesota and the nation appears to be on life support.

The individual insurance market is unraveling and Republicans are determined to repeal the Affordable Care Act and millions of Americans are worried.

Americans and Minnesota residents have good reasons to be worried after two developments on Monday.

In Washington, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 14 million Americans would lose coverage next year under House Republican legislation remaking the nation’s health care system. That figure would grow to 24 million by 2026. And Minnesota could lose as much as $2 billion in federal funds for Medicaid and MinnesotaCare within 18 months, according to a statement by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

The CBO report doesn”t quite line up with campaign statements made by now President Donald Trump: insurance for everybody.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota House on Monday voted to create a reinsurance program, using nearly $400 million every two years to help insurers cover expensive claims that have driven up premiums. This action follows a move by lawmakers earlier this year to throw $300 million of rainy day funds toward helping residents buy down premium increases for 2017.

“The latest House proposal would increase access and reduce costs for people who are in the greatest need,” State Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent said in a new release. “Our bill is by no means a silver bullet, but it is one more important step toward gaining stability and restoring Minnesota’s reputation as a national leader in health insurance.”

Swedzinski is right. Throwing money at the problem is not the silver bullet.

The high cost of health care translates into a significant jump in premiums and the individual market is shrinking. Premium dollars coming in aren’t covering the costs being charged by hospitals, physicians and drug companies.

Providing access is good, but the patient can’t be revived unless the real issue is addressed by politicians. The current health care system can’t be sustained unless the rising costs of medical care and drugs are addressed.

According to a release by Blue Cross Blue Shield, studies indicate that 30 cents of every health care dollar goes to care that is ineffective or redundant.

The solution rests not just with politicians. Health care customers can do their part as well. That same BlueCross BlueShield report also claims that 42 million people in the U.S. still smoke, 78.6 million adults are obese and 38 million adults consume alcohol excessively.

It’s unclear if the proposed Republican legislation will survive. But Minnesotans shouldn’t wait and should lead by example. While Minnesota residents will need premium relief, let’s examine possible solutions to rising health care costs as well.