To the Editor:
It's a startling figure that nearly 70,000 Minnesota children are not covered by any health insurance. More than 11,000 of those children are under the age of five. It's a shame onto itself that children are denied early and basic care for things like strep throat. However, when a child doesn't have access to early care, we all pay.
When uninsured children get seriously ill, they go to the emergency room. In most cases, parents can't afford to pay for care and the costs get passed on to everyone else through higher co-pays and higher insurance premiums. However, we have a solution making its way through the Legislature.
The House Health Committee recently heard testimony on legislation to cover every Minnesota child with health insurance. The plan begins through enrolling the 53,000 uninsured children who are eligible for, but not receiving, Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, the state insurance plan that Minnesotans pay for on a sliding scale. The remaining children would become eligible for MinnesotaCare, with their parents paying a premium. A MinnesotaCare premium for a child in a family at 200% above poverty level would be $64 per month.
As Chair of the House Finance Committee, I pay close attention on how we pay for initiatives like this one. We have a way to cover all children and not affect the state's general budget. The federal government already pays half the costs of covering children through Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. The remaining costs will be covered by a sizable surplus in the Health Care Access Fund. This fund was created when we passed bipartisan legislation creating MinnesotaCare in the mid-90s to collect a 2% provider tax that pays for the insurance program. In effect, we all continue paying a little, so we don't end up paying a lot down the road.
One of the best ways to slow down increases in health care costs is to cover more Minnesotans. When it's in the best interests of everyone, we can afford to cover all children.