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Passing MNCare public option would give middle-income Minnesotans another choice

Series: Guest columnist | Story 1

Everyone deserves health insurance that is affordable, simple to use, and provides coverage for what they and their doctor decide is necessary to keep them healthy.

Minnesota is lucky to have this kind of insurance for low-income working Minnesotans. It’s called MinnesotaCare. It was created in 1992 with bipartisan support. Years ago, when I was just getting started with my small business, I was able to buy into MNcare, paying a premium based on my income. As a Type 1 diabetic I could depend on the insurance I received through MNCare to cover the essential needs of my chronic condition.

Unfortunately, I lost this reliable coverage as soon as I surpassed the current income limit. Now, my only option is to purchase insurance on the individual market and pay the outrageous deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums every year just to cover the basics of my diabetic care.

In a country that spends more on health care than any other, it is not OK that so many of us live in fear that we and those we love will not be cared for when we need it most. The MNCare Public Option (HF 96/SF49) is one step in the right direction toward a comprehensive health care system that serves everyone regardless of age, employment status, income or zip code.

The Public Option eliminates MNCare’s current income limit, opening it up to any Minnesotan without employer-based insurance whose only option for coverage is the individual market. This market is plagued by ever-rising deductibles that leave many people going without insurance or just not going to the doctor. The MNCare Public Option eliminates these deductibles, and the premiums are set on a sliding scale based on income. Federal dollars currently going to subsidize insurance companies will instead be put into a time-tested public program that provides better coverage at a lower cost.

As an advocate for small-farmers and others helping to keep rural Minnesota strong, I have heard too many stories of people not being able to do the important work of caring for our land and our communities because they can’t afford health care for themselves and their families. The MNCare Public Option would be life-changing for so many of these middle-income Minnesotans. Retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare, young people who age off their parents’ insurance, entrepreneurs, and small-employers would also be eligible for MNCare.

We know that our families, economy and local communities are stronger when we all have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare we can depend on. It’s time for our lawmakers to pass a MinnesotaCare Public Option this session.

Paula Williams of Barnum is a Land Stewardship Project healthcare organizer and a certified life coach who is passionate about making healthcare affordable and available to all. Contact her at [email protected].

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