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Doctor/State Lawmaker’s Rx for Health Care Riles Up Left

The Star Tribune’s opinion page column usually keeps a low profile during the holiday break. But a December 28 column containing a checklist of ideas for reforming Minnesota’s health care delivery system by state Sen. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) provoked dozens of unseasonably feisty  comments by progressives.

A couple of examples:

Probably guys like this should not be part of working on the remaking of health care in America; exclude the drug guys and the  hospital guys and device guys and the lawyer guys and the lobbyist guys and the professional political guys that have to squeeze any solution through the screen of an ideology…

Why should we be bound by the ideas from anyone from the party that just got trounced in November? Their abysmal record on healthcare was a BIG part of why that happened. Thanks, but no thanks.

A family doctor and member of the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate, Jensen offered a dozen issues for legislators and stakeholders to consider prior to the kickoff of the 2019 Minnesota Legislature. Right off the top, the author challenged his colleagues to look at the big picture.

We must transform the health care discussion, making a clear distinction between insurance against unpredictable, calamitous occurrences and, on the other hand, routine care that can be foreseen and budgeted for, such as preventive dental visits, tetanus shots or screening tests. There is a real difference between wants and needs, and a reasonable perspective distinguishes between a catastrophic need and an elective desire.

The high cost of new prescription drugs and the overblown, unaffordable requirements of Obamacare also take a hit.

We must trim the costly and overexpanded benefit sets required for qualified insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. A Cadillac plan designed to provide all Americans everything they want whenever they want it cannot be sustained without dramatic adverse impacts — inflated utilization, long waiting times, reduced quality of care, and rigid, unfriendly triage protocols. On the other hand, what’s needed is a basic safety-net package of care truly allowing all to seek critical medical cares — for chest or abdominal pain, vomiting or stroke symptoms, diabetes and insulin, etc. — without fear of losing their homes or going bankrupt. Now is the time.

Jensen’s prescription also includes tort reform and greater transparency across the board, empowering patients to make more of their own spending and treatment choices.

When people have a personal stake in expenditures, they have an incentive to be wise stewards of health care dollars. That is, we spend money more wisely when it’s our own money. A 10 percent coinsurance payment often prompts people to reassess the need for a potentially unnecessary test, surgery or prescription. Single-payer models run the risk of minimizing the value of patient decisionmaking and causing dramatic increases in utilization.

The physician/legislator’s list may not be perfect. But judging from the reaction on the left, it’s a solid starting point for new and returning state lawmakers. You can read Jensen’s list in its entirety here.

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