Otto wants universal health care for state

DFL gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is proposing a universal health care system for Minnesota. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto is proposing a publicly-financed, universal health care system for Minnesota as part of her 2018 campaign for governor.

Otto released some details Wednesday of what she calls the Healthy Minnesota Plan, which she described as “a game changer.” It comes at a time when states are facing great uncertainty about the impact of potential changes in federal health care policy.

“I’m providing a path for us to change what we’re doing as a state,” Otto said.

Under Otto’s plan, every Minnesota resident would get basic health care coverage and would be able to choose his or her doctor. There would be no premiums or deductibles. Doctors would be paid to improve patients’ overall health rather than just treat ailments.

Otto, who is among six announced DFL candidates for governor, said she believes her approach will lower health care costs and increase quality.

“We should be able to reduce our cost of health care by 15 percent overall,” she said. “That’s a big deal.”

Otto did not put a price tag on her plan. She said the cost still needs to be worked out. Otto said the plan will rely on existing state and federal health care money, which would be redirected to a dedicated trust fund. She said a tax increase would also be part of the equation.

Despite strong Republican opposition to tax increases and to an expanded government role in health care, Otto is convinced that she can get bipartisan support for her proposal. She said Republican small business owners have already approached about fixing health care.

“We know there are issues in the current system,” Otto said. “If they’re not going to fix it at the federal level, that’s why we have to fix it as a state.”