A recent commentary by Peter Nelson claimed that Gov.-elect Mark Dayton's plan to enroll Minnesota in Medicaid was flawed in part due to its inability to cut costs ("Dayton's plan on Medicaid? Several flaws,'' Dec. 20).
Nelson is correct that cost-containment is an issue we must face, but in truth, it is precisely why opting into Medicaid is a "sensible, jobs-friendly decision," as the Star Tribune stated in a Dec. 18 editorial.
For years, Minnesota has been ahead of the curve nationally when it comes to cost-saving health care reforms.
In 2008, the state adopted nation-leading changes to improve the care of those with chronic conditions.
We know that treating conditions such as heart disease and diabetes offers the greatest opportunity to save costs down the road.
General Assistance Medical Care reform gave us a real opportunity to reduce costs, because 80 percent of Minnesotans enrolled in the program have multiple chronic conditions that call for intensive, coordinated care.
Building on the work we started in 2008, we introduced coordinated care delivery systems to GAMC in order to improve care and cut costs. But as Nelson noted, the program was "tremendously underfunded."
We found that hospitals couldn't afford to implement or participate in the new program. The result was a triaged GAMC program that dramatically increased uncompensated care at hospitals, which led to higher fee and premium increases for all of us.
We have learned from GAMC that severe cuts to the care of the chronically sick do not save money -- they just shift costs. That's why, given our present and future budget challenges, opting into Medicaid is the right move.
The program will bring $1.2 billion in federal matching funds into Minnesota hospitals at no additional cost to the state.
Those funds will go directly to Minnesota hospitals, clinics and providers that otherwise would give care without payment or turn sick Minnesotans away without treatment.
The immediate effect will be healthier local economies, new health care jobs, and fewer ER visits for chronically ill patients.
The broader effect will be a more stable health care system that allows us to pursue innovative, cost-reducing reforms while preparing for the care of an aging population.
Nelson's claim that the "opt-in" clause is somehow unconstitutional is disingenuous at best. The Medicaid opt-in became law with open eyes by both the legislative and executive branches and is clearly constitutional.
If we are serious about addressing cost-containment in health care, we need to accurately diagnosis the problem.
We must do all we can to promote health and effectively treat the chronically sick. In Minnesota, we are well on our way, and opting into Medicaid is the next step forward.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.