Mental & Chemical HEalth
When someone experiencing a mental health crisis is brought to jail instead of a treatment center, we know our system is broken. And we know our system is broken when a parent has nowhere to bring their child for addiction treatment.
We can fix this broken system by every level of government bringing their resources to the table in a coordinated effort. Cities, counties, and schools are all dealing with the overwhelming issues surrounding mental and chemical health, but this is too complex for any one jurisdiction to solve on their own.
We must coordinate. We must bring city, county, and school resources – along with state and federal funds – to address this issue head on and finally make progress toward treating the root causes of the problem, not just spending millions of dollars on bandaids.
That means increasing investments in school nurses and counselors, building partnerships between schools and county housing services, and getting more social workers and mental health professionals on patrol with law enforcement officers. It also means building more treatment centers for mental and chemical health so people have a bed available when they need it.
This is exactly what I will do as State Auditor in partnership with local government leaders and community advocates.
Minnesotans spend a lot of money on healthcare – $50 billion in 2017, according to Minnesota Department of Health estimates. But we know little about where that money goes. With people on public programs like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, the State Department of Human Services contracts with Health Maintenance Organizations to "manage" people's care. They get a lump sum of money and get to pocket anything they don't spend on patient care. Once that money leaves State hands, that's the last we see of it. Who knows what HMOs spend that money on? Who knows what prices they negotiate with providers and pharmacy benefit managers? We ask them, but they tell us, "That's proprietary."
No more. We must follow the money and see how HMO profit motivations affect patient care decisions. We already know about harmful insurance policies like "Fail First," "Step Therapy," and "Prior Authorization." That's how insurance companies interfere with the decisions you and your doctor make because of profit motivations! It's not right, and it's time we found out what they're doing with all our money.
Minnesotans have a right to know!
And I'm going to try to find out. It may require additional legislative authority, but working together, we can get to the bottom of it.
Single payer, medicare for all
Healthcare is a human right. And even if you don't believe that, you probably agree that healthcare is a basic human need. We all need it. And because we all need it, the most efficient way to pay for it is if we join together into one large pool and and pay for healthcare based on what people can afford to pay. Everyone pays something, and everyone pays what they can afford.
Some call it Single Payer. Some call it Medicare for All. Some call it guaranteed, universal healthcare. Whatever you call it, it is a publicly-financed healthcare system where hospitals and clinics and doctors are still independent. Everybody is covered from birth until death without interruption between. No copays, no deductibles. Your access to healthcare does not depend on your marital or employment status.
This is how we save money in healthcare.
Big businesses long ago decided to "self-insure" in order to save money. Well, that's what we want to do, self-insure as an entire State of Minnesota so we can save money. Too many people are paying $1500 per month for premiums and still have $6,000 or $10,000 deductibles before their insurance even kicks in. That's ridiculous!
Under Single Payer, the efficiencies of the system are what allow us to save money. Some will pay more: Walmart, for example, because they don't currently pay for their employees' health insurance – taxpayers do instead through Medical Assistance! So they'll have to pay their fair share just like the rest of us.
Now, the State Auditor can't bring Single Payer healthcare to the State of Minnesota, but I want you to know what my values are. As State Auditor, I can show how much money we waste as taxpayers on excessive administrative costs and on price-gauging pharmaceutical drugs. One of the largest expenses of a local government is employee health insurance. And our cities, counties, and schools can't afford to waste a single dollar when we need to invest those tax dollars in the high-quality services our residents expect.
By working toward it together, we can achieve a more-efficient healthcare system that saves us money!