6 Takeaways on State Health Care Policy For 2020 and Beyond

At TakeAction Minnesota, we believe our health care system should make us healthier, center people, and leave nobody out. We’re clear that the pathway to universal, affordable, accessible health care is through public health care (#MedicareforAll), not the failing private market.

No matter what happens federally, most progress on health care will happen at the state level for the foreseeable future. That’s why TakeAction Minnesota has been meeting with partners across the country since August to work on state health care policy.

Here are six key takeaways for Minnesota born out of these collaborative health care policy work groups:

1. The Affordable Care Act is still under attack in the courts, which means the Legislature must act.

A group of corporate-backed Attorneys General are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the Supreme Court with the Texas vs. United States lawsuit, so other states have already started codifying ACA protections in state law. It’s one of the easiest, smartest things Minnesota lawmakers can do to protect our health care next year. We need to ensure young people can stay on their parent’s insurance until turn 26, prevent people from being denied coverage because of their health history, protect birth control coverage, and maintain our high quality standards of health care coverage.

If the Supreme Court repeals the ACA, Medicaid-expansion goes with it. Millions of low-income Americans have care today because of the ACA. Every time we’re fighting to protect Medicaid — in the courts, fighting so-called work requirements in the legislature, or protecting Minnesota’s provider tax — it’s the same fight to protect the safety net from the ruling class that wants tax breaks for the wealthy.

The good news is that the public understands this: health care is still the top issue for voters and when democrats run on it, they win.

2. The stakes of the presidential election are extremely high.

There are an infinite number of reasons why we need to elect a progressive president in 2020. One of them near the top of our list: in order to pass a state public option, we need a federal waiver. To pass an affordable public option in Minnesota, we’ll need federal money, and that won’t happen under the current Administration. Minnesota needs to be ready to submit federal innovation waivers as soon as possible when we elect a new president.

At the state level, Governor Tim Walz put solid proposals on health care in his last budget which should still be on the table: standardized benefits for prescription drugs, state-based tax credits to help people hit hardest by high premiums, and expanded vision and dental benefits for people enrolled in public programs.

3. The price of health care is hurting all of us… except those getting super rich.

Across the country, the price of health care keeps going up, but quality and access isn’t improving. Everyone is paying more: it’s bankrupting families, squeezing businesses, eating our paychecks, and hurting budgets at every level of government.

Sorry kids, we know we can’t afford a nurse for every public school, but we’re going to overpay tens of millions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies every year because they have lobbyists and you don’t! Good luck and don’t get sick!

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the biggest factor increasing the cost of health care isn’t demographics or use: it’s the price of services and drugs.

We’re all paying the price of an out of control health care industry that price-gouges, drops surprise bills on vulnerable patients, and spends millions of dollars a year on lobbying, corrupting our democracy.

The only exceptions are the folks in those industries who are getting ridiculously rich off our money. It’s no wonder that nurses and doctors are burning out in this profit-driven system as well.

4. States must take action to rein in the health care industry.

Medicare for All is the end game, but on the way there, we have LOTS of work to do through our state government to say enough is enough. We, the patients, will not go bankrupt so a pharmaceutical executive, hospital CEO, or specialist can buy a second Mercedes.

Simply expanding public health care isn’t enough. We need our government to rein in prices so we can put our public dollars toward public education, care, and our communities instead of Big Pharma.

We also need space and resources to focus on actual health and equity: mental health, dental care, Black maternal health and mortality, reproductive care, rural health access, and more.

Other states are working on a number of policies that Minnesota should consider:

5. Insulin is just the beginning of the prescription drug fight in Minnesota.

It’s almost unbelievable that the Minnesota Legislature didn’t pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act last session. But that’s the power of Big Pharma, with its massive lobbying resources.

However, something is different about this fight. The moral boundaries and urgency is clear. The grassroots leaders are fearless. And the public is watching.

Reining in Big Pharma greed is not a partisan issue — it’s a moral one.

As we hear about more Minnesotans dying because our government allows greedy corporations to price-gouge life-saving medication, we should expect emergency insulin to be only the beginning of a massive, moral fight on prescription drugs and health care.

6. Changing our health care system requires a people-centered democracy and a government working in the best interest of its people.

At a health care conference in Atlanta this fall, an advocate in attendance kept referring to their Medicaid-expansion fight as fixing the “coverage gap.”

Let’s be clear: millions of Americans are not facing a “coverage gap.” They’re facing corporate-backed state lawmakers actively denying health care coverage to poor folks, people of color, people with disabilities, older people, so billionaires can pay less in taxes.

Whether we’re talking about Medicaid-expansion in conservative-controlled states, the relentless push to repeal the ACA, or the battle coming on prescription drug prices, the fundamental question is the same: do we have a government working in the interest of it’s people or not?

Having a better health care system that truly supports the health and dignity of every person — no exceptions — requires a people-centered government.

Elected officials are elected by and accountable to we, the people, not corporations. Not multinational companies or powerful industries. We’re not just taking on policy fights — we’re in this to take our democracy back.

Together, we’ll win.

Join our partners at the AARP, state lawmakers, and Attorney General Keith Ellison for a special panel on reining in drug prices on December 5, 2019.

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