Shelley Seeberg, West St. Paul, Minn., column: Public option would help, not hurt, N.D. hospitals
WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. -- North Dakotans have been getting an earful about what health care reform will mean. As someone who was raised in North Dakota and raised my family in North Dakota, I know that North Dakotans at the end of the day want to d...
WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. -- North Dakotans have been getting an earful about what health care reform will mean. As someone who was raised in North Dakota and raised my family in North Dakota, I know that North Dakotans at the end of the day want to do the right thing.
My concern is that a lot of scare tactics are being used. Insurance companies also are flooding the debate with money, and that is misleading and clouding the real discussion.
I have heard things such as, "If a public option passes, hospitals in North Dakota will close." Who can guarantee that hospitals won't close without a public option?
The reality is, more than 80 percent of North Dakota hospitals get 101 percent of costs under a special Medicare payment provision for rural hospitals.
And it's not just the rural hospitals that are in better shape. Three of the main urban hospitals in North Dakota have positive net margins; and in some instances, the Medicare margins are even higher than the margins of all other payers.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, if a public option is passed similar to what has been proposed in the Senate HELP Committee and all three committees in the House, the number of uninsured in North Dakota would drop from more than 74,000 people to 16,000.
For those 58,000 North Dakotans who then would have health insurance, that would mean no more uncompensated care, and North Dakota hospitals would see an increase in income of $37.5 million.
Currently in North Dakota, 6.8 percent of hospital expenses are racked up by uncompensated care. Under the plans that include a public option, the CBO estimates that North Dakota hospitals would see that rate fall to 3.4 percent.
To put it simply, this means there would be more money going to the hospitals.
A vote against a public option is a vote against providing more affordable health care to all North Dakotans.
A public option would force insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota to lower their costs.
As we have seen with the Blues in North Dakota, the insurance industry has no intention of supporting a public option. The industry continues to abuse the trust of hard-working people, who pay their premiums only to see industry executives getting astronomical pay, ridiculous golden parachutes and exotic industry junkets.
We now have a chance to do the right thing.
I am tired of money leading the debate in what is right for this country. In the 1980s, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota was called on the carpet for inappropriate spending, and policy holders where told it wouldn't happen again. Today, we're having the same discussion, only policy holders also have paid double-digit increases.
Real health care reform is not just insurance reform.
Seeberg is area field services director for the American Council of State, County and Municipal Employees.