Through all of the challenges the year 2020 brought us, I’m heartened by the way Minnesota’s nonprofit health plans have stepped up to support our state.

Health plans have always put the health and safety of Minnesotans first, but we all know that 2020 was radically different. The COVID-19 pandemic – as well as the racial unrest that ensued after the murder of George Floyd last summer – pushed the health care system in ways that no one could ever have imagined. Not only were enrollees of our member health plans impacted, but the community overall. We knew we needed to come together to help Minnesota heal.

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One of the first things health plans did in response to the pandemic was waive any cost-sharing component for COVID-19 testing. Health plans quickly recognized that testing is at the center of preventing the spread of the infection – so typical cost-sharing was lifted to avoid any financial barrier to seeking a test. Congress has since mandated this strategy nationwide, but it was an important move that I’m glad Minnesota health plans took on voluntarily.

Health plans moved quickly to cover the cost of COVID-19 in-patient treatment, as well. COVID-19 has not just affected our health, but our economy – and the last thing we want is to have anyone hospitalized by this disease worry about a bill. Health plans recently extended cost-sharing to the end of March and will continue to revisit this as the health emergency continues.

The murder of George Floyd was also a major turning point in which our health plans looked within to see what more we could be doing to promote racial equity and inclusion in our communities. We have a lot of work to do in this area, but health plans are looking at everything from workforce diversity and training to the ways in which we are delivering care to communities of color. To that end, member health plans have formed a new Health Equity Committee with the task of significantly reducing health disparities – which we know are far too prevalent in Minnesota.  We have high hopes that the coordination we are leading will bring everyone together in a way that will bring much needed progress toward these goals.

Finally, health plans accelerated community giving efforts in 2020. The health of Minnesotans can be largely dependent on whether their basic needs are met, and thus, health plans provided millions in assistance last year related to social isolation, mental health, food insecurity and other issues.

Looking ahead to 2021, I’m confident that health plans will continue to be there for Minnesotans in meaningful ways. We’ll continue to be innovative – utilizing cost-saving care delivery like telehealth to provide enrollees with high-quality health care. We’ll position health equity at the forefront of everything we do, finding ways to broaden access to care for underserved communities. Health plans will also continue to find ways to beat back COVID-19 in our state. Already, our health plans have committed to cover the new COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to enrollees as it becomes available across the state this year.

With that, I want to wish everyone across Minnesota a safe and happy start to 2021. I truly appreciate the resolve Minnesotans have shown over the past year and want all of you to know that Minnesota health plans will always work to provide the best care possible. We are here to help our state heal, and we look forward to being your partner in making 2021 the year we all want it to be.

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