Minnesota lawmakers are attempting to radically upend our health system under the assumption that “more government” is the best way to ensure access and affordability.
In reality, it will do the opposite.
Included in the health omnibus bill is the so-called "public option," the next step on the state’s march toward “Medicare for All.” This allows the state to tax and regulate private insurance companies while at the same time directly competing with them. With government authorized to legally undercut their prices and subsidize their competition, why would these companies stick around? They’ll start withdrawing from Minnesota, leaving us stranded with only one option – the “public” one.
We know what happens next. In many European countries where privatized health care has been abolished and public care is the norm, patients are merely numbers, not individuals. Those who suffer from long-term or chronic illnesses often see their conditions deteriorate more under these systems due to long waits. And, as investment in new treatments and medical technology dries up, it’s Minnesota industries and jobs that will be hurt.
Proponents know their plan is unworkable – the state simply can’t afford it. That’s why no fiscal notes were ever released detailing the costs, because they know the price tag would disrupt their affordability narrative. In fact, the entire original bill was downgraded to developing a “proposal for a public option.” It’s an attempt by lawmakers to say they passed it, officially take the next step, but not have to pay for it – yet.
Separately included in the commerce omnibus bill is authorization for a “drug price affordability board,” which would allow the government to control drug prices and direct future ones. In the European Union, price controls have had a major impact on innovation spending in the pharmaceutical market. As price controls were implemented, research spending dropped, and access to new and existing medications has steadily declined. In Canada, price controls are partly to blame for why the country is one of the worst at vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19.
Families are already struggling after a year that has fundamentally changed the way our society and government operates. The pandemic has highlighted the problems with a bloated, broken, and bureaucratic health care system – why double down on that failed approach?
Instead, we should reimagine healthcare through a personal option.
A personal option would improve access, reduce costs, and improve the quality of health care available to Minnesota residents. While the government-operated public option would likely cost the state billions, the personal option would unlock a truly free market, with insurance companies and drug manufacturers competing to lower prices and provide consumers with the best possible quality of care. That, along with corresponding measures that empower consumers, like Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), would provide more freedom and flexibility to plan holders.
Every day, we’re told that our healthcare system is broken, and that the only way to fix it is for the state to get more involved. This is simply not true.
The practical solution is to challenge the bureaucratic nightmare that the intertwining of government and health care has become. By untangling that web, we can provide Minnesotans with better access, better quality, and lower prices.
Jason Flohrs is the Americans For Prosperity - Minnesota state director.