"All politics is local" will certainly have new meaning on Saturday, when President Barack Obama brings his health care plan to Minnesota. President Obama has repeatedly cited Minnesota, specifically the Mayo Clinic, as a model of high-quality, low-cost health care. Minneapolis will be the first stop for the President as he begins a tour around the country to rally support for health care reform.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders held a press conference on Thursday in preparation for the President's visit. Pawlenty, joined with Department of Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman and Department of Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan, gave his perspective on health care reform and the "Ten Things to Know About Health Care in Minnesota." Some of the lessons he wanted to share with the President to inform the health care debate are: the affordability of the current system and the projected growth of MinnesotaCare, moving from a system based on payment from volumes to one based on better health care outcomes, focusing on costs and quality as much as on expanding access, and increasing access to health savings accounts and consumer-driven plans.
Gov. Pawlenty has been quite vocal in his opposition to the health care reform plans in Congress, in particular the plan for a public option. He criticized the plan as "a government takeover model" and stated that it's more important to restrain the current costs of health care than it is to expand access to coverage.
Immediately following the Governor's press conference, Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division Committee Chair Linda Berglin and House Health Care and Human Services Finance Division Chair Tom Huntley responded to Gov. Pawlenty's criticism. Sen. Berglin stated that the Governor has not been able to produce any savings as a result of reform in the seven years he has been in office. His only proposals to contain costs have come in the form of cutting eligibility and services as well as payments to providers. "If you want to give Obama advice, show us the beef in Minnesota first." Rep. Huntley talked about the Governor's elimination of the General Assistance Medical Care program this year, which is estimated to cost about $35 million to Hennepin County Medical Center alone. County commissioners are considering a tax increase to pay for the additional numbers of uninsured, which Rep. Huntley argued was shifting the burden on taxpayers.
You can watch both press conferences at www.senate.mn/media.
You can also read more about President Obama's visit to Minnesota at http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/president/58036572.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUac8HEaDiaMDCinchO7DU.