NEW REPORT: Nearly half of Minnesotans struggle to afford health care, 79% are worried about costs

NEW REPORT: Nearly half of Minnesotans struggle to afford health care, 79% are worried about costs

Small business owners call for the MinnesotaCare Buy-In

ST. PAUL, MN — It’s no secret that health care is a top concern for Minnesotans. Nearly half of Minnesotans (47%) have faced hardships due to the high cost of health care. new report by the Healthcare Value Hub reveals how severely health care costs are affecting Minnesotans across the state. Minnesotans report going uninsured due to costs, delaying or foregoing care, and being unable to pay medical bills. The vast majority adults in the state (79%) are worried about affording health care in the future.

As action on health care is debated at the State Legislature, small business owners are among the voices calling for the MinnesotaCare Buy-In (HF11/SF1080), a popular proposal that would allow anyone to access the state’s public health insurance program, regardless of income. 

For Sarah Piepenberg of Minneapolis, owner of Vinaigrette, expanding MinnesotaCare would allow her to live the American dream—and sleep at night. 

Piepenberg is uninsured. Two years ago, her family was kicked off MinnesotaCare because she made $7 over the income limit. 

"My three kids are insured but my husband and I are not, because we cannot afford insurance on the private market,” Piepenberg said. “We forgo care, medication, and treatment which is especially hard for me because I have chronic asthma.  My family is one illness or accident away from losing everything we have—our home, our business and our livelihood."    

If it passed, the MinnesotaCare Buy-In would allow Piepenberg and her family to access the state’s health insurance program, even as her income fluctuated.  

Piepenberg is not alone. According to the new state report, 40% of Minnesotans who needed health care last year delayed care or went without it. 

Small business owners from across the state went to the Capitol on Tuesday to share the impacts of health care costs with legislators and call for the MinnesotaCare Buy-In. 

Shannon Berns of Alexandria, MN, owner of Du Nord Consulting, is among the ranks of small business owners who are uninsured due to high premium costs. 

"Like many small business owners, I’m uninsured and I can't offer health insurance to my employees. It puts us at a huge disadvantage," Berns said. “It’s really hard for small business owners to keep talent when you cannot provide healthcare or paid leave. I just lost an employee who I spent a year recruiting because I cannot afford benefits like a large company is able to."  

"If you work for a big company, you can rely on having healthcare, but small business owners lack that stability. Our income is completely unpredictable,” said Dan Marshall, owner of Mischief Toy Store in St. Paul. “The option to buy into MinnesotaCare would be huge. It would mean we wouldn't have to search for a new plan during our busiest time, the holiday season." 

It’s clear that Minnesotans across the political spectrum are calling for change,” said Lynn Quincy, director of Healthcare Value Hub who led the study. “Minnesotans are worried about all facets of rising health care costs and see state lawmakers as key to unlocking solutions.”

Opposition to the MinnesotaCare Buy-In largely comes from health plans in the state and providers concerned about reimbursement rates. Last December, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesotaone of the state’s largest insurers whose profits would be hurt by the expansion of a public health programpresented a case against the MinnesotaCare Buy-In to state Senators.  

“Expanding access to affordable health care remains a top issue for our small business membership. We know that simple, affordable health care is possible for all Minnesotans,” said Corinne Horowitz, director of Main Street Alliance at Small Business Day on the Hill. “Minnesotans want accountability and real change to our health care. We’re done waiting.”