Meredith Webb, The Money Is There, We Need It For Care!

Today I joined other TakeAction activists to visit the offices of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, a group that represents HMOs in Minnesota.  We wanted to speak with them about the $518 million in excess reserves that the 4 largest HMOs (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Partners, Medica, and UCare) in this state are currently sitting on.

Yes, you read that number right.  $518 million in EXCESS. That’s money over and above a reasonable level of reserves at the same time our state is facing a $5 billion dollar budget deficit. These HMOs’ bloated bank accounts are full of millions of public dollars that are decidedly not being spent on health care for Minnesotans. Meanwhile, the Minnesota legislature is scrambling to find ways to plug the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall without eliminating the essential services that Minnesotans rely on. Something is very wrong with this picture.

We arrived at the office to tell the HMOs that the agreement they made with the Governor yesterday (1% cap on this year’s HMO profits) is insufficient. We were ready to present our $518 million bill from the taxpayers of Minnesota to the group and to demand the immediate return of these reserves to the state to be spent on the health of Minnesotans. We rang the doorbell. No answer. We rang the doorbell again. The lights were on, but no one answered. The HMOs refused to meet with us to discuss the urgent needs of real Minnesotans. It’s clear that these HMOs have something to hide and are unwilling to acknowledge that these corporate profits for these “non-profit” HMOs are unacceptable as the state faces an unprecedented crisis.

We will continue to pressure these HMOs, Governor Dayton and our elected officials to insist that every last taxpayer dollar in those corporate reserves be returned to the state. I am tired of the old adage that Minnesota has “a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” Everyday Minnesotans are being denied health care while money flows into these HMO bank accounts. This is indeed one hefty spending problem. And it must end now with the return of the reserves.

Meredith Webb

Meredith Webb is a TakeAction Minnesota member and health care leader.  She lives in Minneapolis.

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