MANKATO — Whether you prefer a single-payer system, are fully on board with the Affordable Care Act, or would simply like to go back to the way things were before “Obamacare,” you’d have gotten your fill of health care discussion at Saturday’s public forum at Minnesota State University.
A sparse crowd was on hand — a few dozen people — but the discussion was interesting.
Former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, Dr. Dave Dvorak from Physicians for a National Health Program, and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Lynn Blewett spent two hours picking apart the current health care system, how things will change under the Affordable Care Act, and how things could be potentially more efficient with even further reform.
“The system costs too much, produces too little and is breaking our backs financially,” Durenberger said.
Right now, although some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are already being implemented, there are still 49 million people in the U.S. who do not have insurance. In 2010 alone, 7 million people who had insurance through their employer lost that insurance when they lost their jobs.
On top of that, millions more fall under what experts refer to as “underinsured.” These are people who have insurance, but their coverage is poor or their deductible is very high.
“These are people who, when sick, are going to seriously think twice before seeking help,” Dvorak said.
He recounted a story of a single mother who was ill and needed costly medical testing. She worked full time as a waitress and had she only had $1,800. The tests she needed would cost thousands, and her insurance required a $5,000 deductible. Those tests would wipe out her bank account and leave her with crippling medical bills.
This is what it means to be underinsured. And the only ones to benefit from that are insurance companies.
“It’s not just the uninsured that we need to be worried about in this country,” Dvorak said. “It’s also the underinsured.”
Dvorak champions a single-payer system that would no longer require insurance companies. Everyone would have the same health insurance, and everyone would be covered, always.
A single payer system, Dvorak said, would save the government billions. Employers would save roughly $1,200 per employee per year.
It’s already happening in Vermont. That state has implemented a single payer system at the state level. Dvorak is hoping that bills already in play in both the Minnesota House and Senate can get enough support to eventually make single payer an option in Minnesota, as well.
If and until that happens, though, the Affordable Care Act is the main health care reform we have.
Blewett said that, since the ACA went into effect, the number of people without insurance has gone down. This can be attributed in part to the ACA provision that allows people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. It can also be attributed, in part, to the growing number of Baby Boomers transitioning to Medicare.
One of the biggest changes will be coming soon with Minnesota’s insurance exchange. This will allow Minnesotans without insurance to get affordable insurance under the ACA.