Policy Forum

Health disparities in Minnesota remain greatest in nation, Children’s Defense Fund chief tells Public Policy Forum: Legislation would provide health care for all children

According to Jim Koppel, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, children’s health is one of the most important contributions people can make to secure a better future for the next generation. According to Jim Koppel, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, children’s health is one of the most important contributions people can make to secure a better future for the next generation. "If we can assure them good health and the best opportunity to grow up healthy, they are going to do better in school and become physically as productive as they can be to reach their potential. It is a shame today that we have so many kids who are not able to get the health care they need for lots of reasons. So health care is our number one priority for this legislative session both locally and nationally. It has been for a while because we just haven’t been able to tip over that problem," Koppel told the "Conversations with Al McFarlane Public Policy Forum" broadcast at North Community High School last week.

"Relative to other nations, we are terrible. We spend twice as much as most countries, but all of those industrialized countries ensure everybody. So we have the most expensive health care system, the most confusing health care system and a system with one of the worse outcomes of the industrialized nations in terms of infant mortality rates," said Koppel in KMOJ broadcast interview.

He continued, "in the United States, 16 percent of our gross national product (GNP) goes to health care, which is the highest of any country in the world. The next one down is Canada with 11 percent. So we spend five percentages more of every Dollar that we take in and produce as a society. The most expensive health care in the world."

"It could be a good thing if we didn’t have forty-five million people who don’t have access to health care, if we didn’t have some of the worse infant mortality rates of any industrialized country in the world. We have the ability to keep people alive and living longer than any other country in the world for those who have access to proper health care. We also have the ability unfortunately, to leave millions of children and adults behind who don’t have that access and are unable to get in. It is highly disproportionate to populations of color. In Minnesota, we are the last in the United States in the difference between the health of our white population and the health of our minority population," said Koppel.

He further added that Minnesota does exceptionally well for the general white population, but the African American, Native American, Latino and other minority populations are far away from that good health than any other state in the country. "The number one issue to me is that every single child in America should have health care coverage. Once we accomplish that, the other health care problems become more manageable," he noted.

"We have introduced the Children’s Health Security Act bill this year, which would take every single child in the state and put them in one large pool of zero to eighteen and pay for all their health care costs. This will give their families the choice of all the providers in the state to use. If we did that, we would actually save the state of Minnesota hundreds of millions of Dollars because it is cheaper when they are all together in one large pool. We are pushing that bill really hard because we think that is the beginning of a solution," said Koppel.


March 7, 2005
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