By the numbers: HHS calculates impact of health reform for Minnesota

Did you know that 40 percent of Minnesota’s 72,400 small businesses did not offer health insurance to employees last year?

That’s one of the state-centric tidbits in “The Case for Change” report issued today by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The report says small businesses, which make up 76 percent of Minnesota’s business community, “could be helped” by a tax credit proposal that makes premiums more affordable. Regardless, these businesses would be exempt from “any employer responsibility provisions.”

While it would be easy to dismiss the report as just another pro-reform effort by the Obama administration, HHS documents statistics with studies from inside and outside the department. The small-business statistics, for example, come from a division of HHS called the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

With the Senate poised to start debate on its reform bill after Thanksgiving, it’s difficult to predict what will remain in health-reform bills. If the Senate passes a bill, it faces a conference committee with the House of Representatives, which passed its legislation this month.

Still, these statistics, and claims on how things would change with reform, caught my eye:

• $1.3 billion is spent each year on uncompensated care in Minnesota, which “often gets passed along to families in the form of a hidden premium ‘tax.’ ” Reform proposals could put an end to that cost-shifting by extending insurance coverage to more residents.

• Six percent of Minnesotans have diabetes and 21 percent have high blood pressure, according to the report, which claims that “reform will establish a high-risk pool to enable people who cannot get insurance today to find an affordable health plan.” The Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association  already offers insurance to high-risk residents who have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions

• Nearly a third of Minnesota residents haven’t undergone a colorectal cancer screening, and 20 percent of women older than age 50 haven’t had a mammogram in the past two years. “Health insurance reform will ensure that people can access preventive services for free through their health plans,” according to the report.

The report also breaks down how many residents will qualify for various breaks offered in the proposed legislation: 

• 519,000 uninsured residents could get coverage through the health insurance exchange.

• 282,000 could qualify for premium tax credits to help them buy health coverage.

• 133,000 seniors would see their brand-name drug costs cut in half in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole.”

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