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Health Care Reform on the Table Today

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 By Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN, Contact
April 17, 2008

St. Paul, MN - State lawmakers meet today to try to find common ground on a major health care reform package. House sponsor Paul Thissen says the plan will stop rising medical costs and cover more people. He adds that one in five Minnesotans spends 10 percent or more of their income on health care, and that's too much.

"We're going to set a standard establishing the amount that a family ought to reasonably be paying for health care. And then, we're going to help out families in getting there, both by bringing down the cost of health care for everybody and increasing some subsidies to help families bridge that gap."

Thissen believes one way to address rising premiums and a broken health care system, and to expand coverage, is to shift the focus from treating disease to preventing it.

"When you walk into a clinic, we're going to pay your doctor to help you manage your condition, to sit down with you, to talk with you, or reach out to you over the phone, so that you're managing your health. This is instead of the way we pay now, which basically is to pay the providers to treat you once you become really sick. This will not only save us a lot of money, but also significantly improve the patient's experience."

Thissen says health care reform is critical because premiums have doubled over the last decade and more Minnesotans are without health insurance than ever before.

Eliot Seide, with AFSCME Council 5, says his 43,000 union members, like most Minnesotans, are paying more money for less coverage and affordable health care is a necessity, not a luxury item.

"We believe access to health care for all Minnesotans, and all Americans is a moral imperative as well as a physical necessity. We're either going to pay one way, or we're going to pay another. If we pay with everyone being in the system, then it will pay in an equitable and more affordable manner. And we'll actually keep costs down and keep the public healthier."

Thissen's bill would limit the amount Minnesotans pay at eight percent of income. The measure goes before a House-Senate Conference Committee today.

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