A recent letter claimed that the proposed Minnesota Health Plan would save only 5 percent, through administrative cost reductions. That's almost $2 billion per year. Yet the savings are even greater, because insurance company administrative expenses are only one of many savings.

The MHP would cover all Minnesotans for all of their medical needs, including prescription drugs, dental care, nursing-home care, vision care, immunizations and preventive care, chemical-dependency treatment, mental health -- truly comprehensive medical care.

It would dramatically reduce administrative costs in every hospital and clinic. Some hospitals have dozens of employees in their billing departments, mailing bills and collecting payments from multiple health plans and thousands of patients. Under the MHP they would need only one or two people in billing.

Savings from efficient delivery of care would be huge. For example, under the MHP, a school or public health nurse could administer flu shots to students whose parents want them, the way it was done with the polio vaccination 50 years ago. Parents wouldn't lose an hour of work and students wouldn't miss an hour of school going to health clinics, and we might have three or four times as many students getting a recommended immunization.

A 24/7 nurse line and 24/7 urgent-care clinics would be available to everyone, sharply reducing costly, unnecessary emergency-room visits.

Think of the savings in prevention from mental-health care and chemical-dependency treatment under the MHP. Our prisons are filled with people who have untreated mental illnesses and chemical-dependency problems. A major California study showed that every dollar spent on chemical-dependency treatment reduced crime and cut health-care and out-of-home placement costs by $7.

More than a million Minnesotans lack access to dental care. Last year, there were 22,000 emergency-room visits for dental problems. Untreated tooth decay can eventually develop into a painful tooth abscess. This leads to a trip to the ER, where patients get antibiotics to stop the infection and are told to see their dentist in the morning. Because they have no dentist, the costly cycle repeats itself, with taxpayers picking up the tab. Under the MHP, everyone would have access to dental care.

Our current system wastes billions of dollars. The MHP controls costs by cutting waste, not by denying care to patients. It replaces our dysfunctional health-care system with a logical, efficient system that gets people the medical care they need when they need it, improving health and saving lives.

John Marty, DFL-Roseville, is chairman of the Senate Health Committee and author of the Minnesota Health Plan. He is exploring a run for governor.