2020 challenged us in more ways than anyone could have imagined. The global pandemic and societal upheaval laid bare – among other inequities – a significant gap in how Minnesotans can access the health care they need and while we’re all in the same COVID-19 storm, we are not all in the same boat.
Despite the challenges we’ve faced, I have been inspired by the spirit of compassion we’ve all shown each other over the past year. We’ve all played important roles and made significant sacrifices in slowing the spread and protecting critical care capacity for our neighbors who need a bed. As I listen to people from our communities, it’s apparent that there is much more that unites us than divides us. We care deeply about our state and want to see our neighbors succeed.
The State House and Senate will be working once again under the country’s only divided state legislature, and although we’ve seen political divisiveness on the national level at all-time high, we have a strong track record of bipartisanship in Minnesota. Working together over the last year, Democrats and Republicans delivered protective personal equipment and workers compensation for front-line workers at the onset of the pandemic, financial support to our small businesses and workers and found compromise on a reasonable public safety reform package.
But there’s more to do. As a practicing physician and as your legislator, I’m committed to improving health care access and outcomes to ensure everybody has an opportunity to be healthy and thrive. We know that our families, economy and local communities are stronger when we all have access to truly affordable, high-quality health care.
COVID-19 has altered how providers deliver health care and last year, we adapted and shifted toward telemedicine as a practical necessity. Legislatively, the House and Senate passed various bipartisan provisions to allow for coverage of telemedicine in Minnesota to include telephone communications, off-site locations for providers to engage in distance care and remote mental health services during the public health crisis. Given the ongoing pandemic, the role of telemedicine will likely continue to be discussed during this session. I am authoring legislation to expand these existing measures to increase access, particularly in rural areas of the state that were facing challenges even before the pandemic.
A MinnesotaCare public option is another tool we can utilize to close coverage gaps and increase access to affordable health care. The proposal helps people who are currently cut out or priced out of affordable health care coverage by giving them the option of enrolling in MinnesotaCare and paying a sliding scale premium based on their income. As of 2020, approximately 92,000 Minnesotans have been enrolled in MinnesotaCare.
By expanding MinnesotaCare, more Minnesotans will be given a choice of affordable, high-quality health care funded through state, federal and enrollee contributions. Under the expansion, current MinnesotaCare coverage would remain intact, but individuals currently above the federal income level for eligibility could either opt in or continue their individual market coverage. Small employers could also offer MinnesotaCare coverage to their employees and contribute toward the cost of their premiums. Currently, many small businesses are interested in offering coverage to their workers, but they often find coverage under the small group market unaffordable.
Both these initiatives put us on a path to affordable, accessible health care for every Minnesotan. As our state recovers from the pandemic, we must prioritize more solutions to increase access to care and drive down costs. It’s critical we work together to ensure Minnesotans are able to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive beyond it. I welcome your input on these proposals and more ideas on how we can protect and expand access to care for all who need it.
Rep. Kelly Morrison represents House District 33B, which includes Deephaven, Shorewood, Tonka Bay, Excelsior and Greenwood. Contact her at 651-296-4315 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.