One of MPIRG’s three year campaigns is the Healthcare for All campaign, aimed at helping improve the healthcare systems of both the United States generally and Minnesota specifically. This is a critical issue, as the number of uninsured Americans continues to rise to 50 million and America’s health care spending reaches the trillions. The United States also has some of the worst health outcomes of industrialized democracies. The healthcare system of the United States is in dire need of reform and improvement.
With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010, Congress began to address many of the problems present in the US healthcare system. The legislation included several important regulatory measures, including allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26 and stopping the practice of insurance companies denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. The PPACA also aimed to significantly decrease the number of uninsured Americans through expansion of Medicaid and the creation of health insurance exchanges in every state. Health insurance exchanges are marketplaces where small businesses and individuals can purchase insurance coverage with the assistance of experts, called navigators. Currently, insurance companies are unwilling to insure individuals or small business employees due to the increased risk of needing to pay out large sums of money for an individual without the balancing effect of insuring healthier individuals in the company. Insurance exchanges alleviate this problem by grouping individuals for insurers.
As part of implementing the PPACA, Minnesota must pass legislation creating an exchange by January 2013. It is important for the exchange in Minnesota to be successful so as to increase insurance coverage and further the movement for insurance reform. Several features are particularly important for an exchange to be successful. These include public governmental involvement, to maintain public accountability, conflict of interest policies, to prevent insurance company employees from serving on the exchange board or as navigators, and regulations across the whole system to ensure individuals with a variety of health levels receive coverage through the exchange. As a young adult who will soon need to acquire my own insurance coverage, I strongly support the creation of a strong, user-oriented insurance exchange that improves the health of all Minnesotans.Written by Margo Worman, Macalester College