Minnesota could achieve universal health insurance coverage while saving billions of dollars annually by shifting to a single-payer health care system, according to a study commissioned by the Minnesota nonprofit Growth & Justice. The study, released last week, estimates that the average family with health insurance now would save about $1,240 per year in lower premiums and the average employer that offers health coverage would save $1,214 per worker. That’s because of reduced administrative costs from a unified payment system, pooled purchasing power and uniform, transparent pricing. There would have to be some new revenue source, such as a payroll tax or wage tax, but even so the state’s total costs would fall by about 9 percent, or roughly $3 billion per year and employers would be relieved of the burden of providing health insurance to their employees.
The study didn’t use the term “single payer’’ because the phrase is considered politically toxic; Growth & Justice said the system could be run by a state agency or a private-sector entity. The downside: Thousands of workers in the insurance industry could lose their jobs.
Growth & Justice, considered a progressive advocacy group, acknowledged that single-payer is a longshot politically, but pointed out that it has been endorsed by Gov. Mark Dayton and proposed more than once in the Minnesota Senate. It commissioned the respected Lewin Group, a consulting firm that does major studies for corporations and government agencies, to run the numbers. Details can be read at www.growthandjustice.org.