Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan hosted a roundtable with farmers, seniors, legislators, and health care experts to discuss ways to lower health care costs for Minnesotans. The Governor made clear that permanently lowering health care costs, including exploring a public option program, will be a priority of his administration for the upcoming legislative session.

“The best way to understand where the problems lie within our health care system is to hear stories and experiences directly from Minnesotans,” said Governor Walz. “Health care needs to be affordable, and I am committed to making that a permanent reality in Minnesota. With a historic budget surplus, now is the time to act.”

“Like all Minnesotans, dealing with health care is an inevitable reality in our family: from routine check-ups to emergency care,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “But we know that far too many people in our state delay or avoid getting the care they need, simply because they are worried about how they’re going to pay for it —sometimes with devastating consequences. That’s unacceptable, and I know we can do more to make health care affordable and accessible.”

“It’s not news to anybody that most small, family farms are running at a pretty narrow margin, and health insurance costs can be the difference between profitability and being underwater year-to-year. My youngest son would like to take over our farm, but right now he is really going to struggle with his health insurance premiums,” said Steven Read, president of the Rice County Farmers Union and owner of Shepherds Way Farms. “A public option for us, and for a lot of young farmers, will be critical going forward. If we want to keep people in agriculture, and want to keep people in rural areas and small towns, this is one of the biggest drivers in forcing people to make a choice between an avocation that can be their vocation or just a job for benefits that they have to live with.” 

“My mother had a rare type of blood cancer, and her prescription costs for one pill a day was over $13,000 a month,” said Toni Mangskau, a resident of Rochester. “Her copayment was over $7,000 a year, which was nearly half of her monthly Social Security check. With me having the same genetic mutation, how will the high cost of treatments impact my future access to care?”

“I would say the biggest challenge we face in Southern Minnesota is disproportionately higher premiums than anywhere else in Minnesota by more than 30%. This is due to the costs for services of our area’s largest healthcare provider. Though I will recognize we receive higher tax credits because of this, we still see higher premiums. We also have a limited number of carriers to choose from in Southern Minnesota those being Medica, Blue Cross, and Quartz. We need to figure out a way to give equity and balance in Southern Minnesota with the rest of the state,” said Charles Moline, a senior financial advisor with AdvisorNet Financial.

“Our young adult son, Blake, requires around-the-clock care. Blake, my wife Kay, and I all agree that it’s best for him to live in our home,” said Mike Peterson, a Farmers Union member who farms near Northfield. “The personal care attendants we have made it possible for him to remain at home. However, finding personnel to care for him at the wages provided is extremely difficult. We need to raise wages to compensate these compassionate people who do the important work of caring for our loved ones.”

“Even with recent increases in available premium tax credits, health insurance costs remain disproportionately high in the Southeast Minnesota region, especially when considering the very high out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance,” said Denise Robertson, navigator program director for Health Access MN. “MNsure is invaluable in helping people access the most affordable coverage available, and funding additional technology improvements to language access and individual access to online accounts is critical to help MNsure ensure that all Minnesotans—including those with limited English proficiency—understand their health insurance options, get enrolled is

coverage that’s best for them, and efficiently update their application information as it changes throughout the year.”

“Again and again I hear from many of my constituents, even those with health insurance, that they put off going to the doctor or avoid getting the care they need because of the high cost. No one should feel like the choice is between going to work sick or putting off purchasing prescription drugs or seeing a doctor,” said Senator Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington. “We must address these high costs and barriers and ensure Minnesotans have health care that is affordable, accessible, and addresses their needs.”

“Everyone deserves affordable, quality health care, but Minnesotans still face significant challenges,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, chair of the Minnesota House Health Policy and Finance Committee. “High out-of-pocket costs, including outrageously expensive prescription drugs, prevent many Minnesotans from getting health care even if they have insurance. Minnesota has long been a health care leader and innovator, and people are counting on us to find solutions so everyone can get the care they need.”

“I was very appreciative of this roundtable discussion,” said Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “The rising costs of healthcare have impacted the majority of Minnesotan families, which is why Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan have wisely prioritized engaging as many average Minnesotans as possible in the search for a policy solution. They know that involving grassroots Minnesotans in the search for a solution to this healthcare crisis is the only way to solve it.”

“Every day my nursing colleagues provide care to patients who can’t fully focus on getting well because of looming worries about the bill they’ll receive at the end of treatment,” said Rep. Liz Boldon (DFL – Rochester), a nursing education manager. “Often patients without adequate insurance will wait until the last minute before seeking care, which can have dire consequences. Quality healthcare is a right, and it is our moral duty to ensure that every Minnesotan can access affordable or no-cost care.”