Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation outline their positions on health care reform

Minnesota Public Radio polled each of the 10 members of the Minnesota congressional delegation about their current position on the health care reform effort — particularly on a public option or co-op — as the legislation continues to slog its way through Congress.

In short statements, often through spokespeople, here’s what the story says about where they stand:

DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar (in a written statement):
“I want to see more competition in the insurance market, and I believe one way to achieve that is with a public option, but I want to make sure that any public option plan goes hand-in-hand with significant Medicare cost reform. I have been working hard for that cost reform in the Senate bill. I think co-ops should be considered, but am concerned they may not have enough leverage to drive down costs.”

DFL Sen. Al Franken is a strong supporter of the public option. His spokeswoman said Franken “has some serious concern about how the co-ops will build the critical mass of beneficiaries needed to be effective. However, we are open to all options that will create competition in the health insurance market. Basically, at this point, we don’t have enough detail to make a definitive decision.”

DFL Rep. Tim Walz says he’s more inclined to support the public option now that it fixes the geographic disparities in Medicare. [Walz talks about the public option in an audio clip.]

A spokeswoman for Walz also said Walz “finds the idea of co-ops an intriguing idea, especially since they’ve succeeded in Minnesota with organizations like HealthPartners. If it helps provide competition and lower costs, it should be a part of the mix.”

GOP Rep. John Kline (through a spokesman):
1. Public option: A public “option” for health insurance essentially enables the federal government to make the rules, play the game, and act as a referee. In sharp contrast to the claims of the proposal’s authors that a public option would improve access and drive down costs, a June 2009 study put forth by the independent consulting company, the Lewin Group, found that a government plan based on Medicare-level reimbursement rates, would result in almost 114 million Americans losing their current private insurance coverage. More recently, an analysis released by the President’s own Department of Health and Human Services this week concludes that our nation’s health care spending would increase by 2.1 percent in the next 10 years under the Democrat House proposal.

2. Health co-ops: Mr. Kline has been a longtime supporter of Association Health Plans, a proposal to allow small businesses and other associations to join together to get health insurance at lower rates – the same way large businesses and labor unions do today – and there are some similarities between Association Health Plans and co-ops. However, the co-op proposal being considered in the Senate includes $6 billion in taxpayer funding and layers of federal red tape. Government control over a co-op is no better than government control over other types of health care plans. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office has cautioned that the co-op proposal under debate will do little to drive down costs. Simply put, from what we’ve seen so far, there is no guarantee co-ops will be able to provide small businesses and individuals across the country the flexibility they need to secure affordable health care coverage, which Mr. Kline believes is a primary goal of health care reform.

GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen (through a spokesman):
“Congressman Paulsen opposes the government-run public option. He has concerns with the cooperative proposal, including the massive up-front investment of taxpayer dollars as well as the potential losses taxpayers could face if the cooperatives fail to be self-sufficient.”

DFL Rep. Betty McCollum said she now supports the public option now that the geographic disparities in Medicare have been fixed. She said she doesn’t know the specifics about the health Co-op proposed in the Senate Finance bill and isn’t willing to comment on the plan. Listen to my brief interview with McCollum here: Listen

DFL Rep. Keith Ellison has been a strong supporter of the public option. His spokesman didn’t get back to me on whether he supports the Co-op.

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann (through a spokesman) does not support the public option or the Co-op language that’s included in Senate Finance bill.

DFL Rep. Collin Peterson reportedly does not support the public option and is undecided on the health care cooperative idea that’s included in the Senate Finance bill. Peterson’s office did not respond to my request.

DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar is a strong supporter of the public option. His spokesman said Oberstar would vote for the Co-op idea if the public option isn’t available and the Co-op ensures that more people will receive health coverage than the current system.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/23/2009 - 12:51 pm.

    “She said she doesn’t know the specifics about the health Co-op proposed in the Senate Finance bill and isn’t willing to comment on the plan.”


    The biggest issue before the Congress is health care reform. How can this woman *not* be familiar with what is being proposed?

    She has consistently issued nothing but specious, ill informed press releases that stand out only in that they are completely devoid of any original thoughts.

    Just what does Rep. McCollum *do* all day?

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/23/2009 - 02:17 pm.

    Betty McCollum has been very much in favor of a strong public option (THANK YOU, BETTY M). If she doesn’t know a lot about the possible coop offering, it’s probably because those who study such things say a coop cannot succeed unless it opens on Day 1 with at least 500,000 members. Hardly an option that could work, is it?

    A real public option would be open to all Americans who want to enroll in it. The one on offer from the Senate Finance Committee will, I believe, be available only to those who are currently uninsured. If you have employer-paid insurance, you are stuck with it — no matter how many times the insurer raises premiums and deductibles and your employer raises the percentage of premium costs you must pay.

    A true, real, effective public option would be that suggested by Thom Hartmann and endorsed by Howard Dean: Let any American under 65 enroll in Medicare by paying its premiums. Now THAT’s competition. Isn’t that what the Republicans and Blue Dogs keep saying they want?

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/24/2009 - 02:47 am.

    Keep waving that white flag, Bernice…reinforcements are on the way.

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/25/2009 - 09:08 pm.

    Dump fee-for-service. Insurance companies have had decades to compete; clearly, they’d prefer not to. So the other half is single payer. It can be a private non-profit coop. Fold in Medicare and Medicaid, and two big government programs are gone.

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