10,000 Minnesotans called Klobuchar with health care questions, and many are still waiting for clear answers

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is for: better health care, lower costs, nobody getting whacked from their health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, a “uniquely American approach” to resolving the health care crisis.

There you have it.

The state’s senior senator spent an hour on a telephone conference call with 10,000 Minnesotans Sunday evening. Most of them still must be scratching their heads. In the midst of this health care crisis, what sort of reform does the senator stand for?

One caller tried hard to pin her down.

“Do you support a public (health insurance) option?” he asked.

That seemed to call for a “yes” or “no” answer.

The caller got neither.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

REUTERS/Larry Downing
Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Instead, here’s what he got: “I will tell you this,” the senator said. “I’m open to a competitive option. You need to put pressure on the insurance companies. One way to do that [is allow the public to join] the federal health care plan or one just like it. The government does administer it, but it’s a private plan. That’s one way. And then there’s this co-op plan proposal [in the Senate]. That really hasn’t been formed yet. Those are some of the ideas. I want to make sure whatever option we choose works for our state.  Make sure it makes it easier for small businesses and the self-employed.”

Presumably by now, most of us have a pretty good idea where we stand. Single payer, public option, status quo, tort reform, a gymnasium on every corner. Something.

But not our senator.

“This is complex,” Klobuchar said a few times.

She also said that “it’s very personal,” which is why it’s such an emotional issue.

She also said that the ideas she heard Sunday night “she’ll take back to Washington” and try to apply to whatever health bill emerges.

Dr. Denis Cortese

Dr. Denis Cortese

Fortunately, the senator and her two guests — Dr. Denis Cortese, the CEO of the Mayo Clinic, and Mary Wakefield, a nurse who is the Obama administration’s rural health care advocate — had time to answer only a dozen or so questions. Had all 10,000 people listening in had a chance to speak up, Klobuchar would have needed a freight train to haul all the ideas back to Washington.

Her own ideas?

Well, that’s very hard to say.

She talked about fish hook injuries in Park Rapids. She talked about stomach ruptures in La Crescent. She talked about how “one of every six dollars” in the country is spent on health care. (She implied that’s too much.) She talked about how health care costs are rising three times faster than wages. (She implied that that’s a problem.)

None of this is particularly surprising to most Americans.

Mary Wakefield

Mary Wakefield

But Klobuchar isn’t about to say what she thinks ought to be done.

“I know this can be a contentious issue,” she said. “There’s not yet a final bill in the Senate. I’m getting ideas from the people.”

Lest you think the senator is waffling, she did say she wants “a sensible workable solution.”

“In the end, whatever we do has to be meaningful,” she said. “It has to control costs and improve quality otherwise we shouldn’t do it.”

So there you go.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Bob Willlems on 08/24/2009 - 10:23 am.

    10,000 Minnesotans, eh?

    We sat on the line for about 10 minutes while they futzed around on the other end.

    Then, click, we got dropped.

    Someone ought to investigate how many callers actually survived to listen in. I bet it wasn’t close to 10,000.

  2. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/24/2009 - 11:20 am.

    I expected more from Klobuchar. I thought she’d support a true health care reform and that means a public options. For months she has said absolutely nothing meaningful. I can only think that, given all the time she’s had to think about it, she just lacks any kind of courage or backbone. Or she really has no opinions, which is worse I guess. I think all of us should lean, hard, on her.

  3. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/24/2009 - 11:22 am.

    One more thing: of course it’s complex. That’s why we hired her. She is beginning to sound like W. complaining that his job was hard, really hard, really hard.
    Then maybe we need someone else with opinions, guts and energy.

  4. Submitted by Mary Grace Flannery on 08/24/2009 - 12:19 pm.

    I guess we’ll just have to wait to see where Chuck Schumer comes down on this one…and why should we expect anything different from Klobuchar? She developed type of exchange campaign in 2006 and has been polishing it ever since.

  5. Submitted by Joel Shinder on 08/24/2009 - 12:22 pm.

    Were physicians excluded from Amy’s tele-meeting last night? I registered as a “Dr.” (Ph.D., not M.D.) and received no promised call to join in. Instead, I received a message about 7:35 pm that I could listen to a recording of the event.

  6. Submitted by Richard Faust on 08/24/2009 - 12:54 pm.

    Klobuchar is not a disappointment. She is acting exactly as expected. This lifelong Democrat did not support her until she was nominated by the DFL. As for Franken, where has he been? Many of us gave heartily to his campaign and waited patiently for the recount to run its course. Now Al is nowhere to be found. The DFL needs outfront leaders or the GOP will slip in another weak governor next year, as the progressives/independents sit out the election or look towards a third party option. Remember 1998?

  7. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/24/2009 - 02:37 pm.

    Amy Klobuchar is becoming a laughing-stock among Democratic activists. She seems to go out of her way to avoid taking a firm stand on any important issue while devoting a lot of time to feel-good legislation that is really neither here nor there.

    However, the DFL establishment doesn’t seem to want anyone who would rock the yachts, such as Ford Bell, who ran against Klobuchar for the nomination, or Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, who ran against Franken.

  8. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/24/2009 - 02:57 pm.

    I agree with many of your writers but probably to a lesser degree. Anyways what did you guys/gals think of the Pioneer press coverage?

  9. Submitted by myles spicer on 08/24/2009 - 03:59 pm.

    It’s really not very complex at all Senator; the model for unversal, affordable, prevention-oriented health care is right in front of you in the model of virtually every industrialized country in the world. And, in every case it involves some sort of government assisted program!

    To further simplify, it comes down to this: are you going to support the public option most Americans and virtually all the Democrats who helped elect you want and need…or not?

    See how simple this can be.

  10. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/24/2009 - 04:25 pm.

    Senator Amy K actually makes “Big AL” sound articulate.

  11. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 08/24/2009 - 04:53 pm.

    I attempted to get in on this discussion, partly to try contribute my views, partly to see what occurs in a “virtual” town hall.

    I registered online, got a call the day before saying that all I needed to do was pick up the phone when it rang at 7. 7 pm- no call. 7:15, a call with a recorded message from Sen. Klobuchar saying “Tonight I hosted a town hall with Denis Cortese…I’m sorry I missed you, but if you want to hear the call it will be available on my website” (or something roughly to that effect).

    I’m quite for a single-payer plan (and encourage anyone to look at the Minnesota chapter of Physicians for a National Health Plan online), and thus can’t think of a worse way to move this debate forward- have a tele-town hall where registered people don’t get called (can’t manage a tele-conference, and want to take on health care), and where only a miniscule fraction of people are heard.

    Sounds like I didn’t miss much, but in general this was a dissapointing, overly hyped effort from someone I respect. Senator Klobuchar’s time would be better spent talking to people who study the complex issue of healthcare, health-delivery systems, and the examples of superb system-wide care that exist in the US (including the VA system- a home grown single payer system).

  12. Submitted by Michael Gallo on 08/24/2009 - 05:16 pm.

    I wrote to the Senator last week and got only a form letter response thanking me for writing.
    I then wrote a letter to the Star Tribune Opinion page in response to her infantile Op-Ed piece that was published last week. This is what it said:

    I am dismayed, that at this time of public confusion over how to fix our broken healthcare system, the best we get out of our “Senior” senator is some pablum piece like apple pie and motherhood in her joint Op-Ed with former representative Ramsted.
    I want to know where she stands! She knows the issues by now and should be able to say where she stands and take a leadership position. I am for some type of public option and am not afraid to say so and why based on my experiences with private insurance and Medicare. Whether she supports it or not, I just want to know and have her try to affect the outcome like she is supposed to do. I’ve observed over her term in office that she has a tendancy to lay in the weeds waiting to see which way the wind blows to make sure she is on the winning side. She did this in the last Presidential campaign as she waited until the last minute to declare for Obama or Clinton.
    I want my senator to listen to her constituents, study the issue and decide what would serve Minnesota and the country best based on her own conclusions and then take a stance and work to make sure it happens. She hasn’t shown any leadership in this debate and I am truly disappointed as are others who worked to elect her. I hope Al Franken is listening too. We don’t need two Senators who will be content to not declare their position and then stand on the stage for photo-ops with the winner after its all over.
    Stand up and say where you really stand now, Amy.

  13. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/24/2009 - 05:41 pm.

    Maybe Senator Klobuchar wants to work for the Startribune editorial board in the future. I too think she could be more forceful.

  14. Submitted by Gardner Lepp on 05/16/2013 - 09:13 am.

    I don’t blame Senator Klobuchar for avoiding a direct response to the question posed in the article. “Health care” is an enormously complex and difficult set of problems. After working in the health care field for the last 2.5 years, I’m amazed at how deeply messed up the whole thing is. Every option currently put forward to “fix” health care brings it’s own set of flaws and issues. The best option may simply end up being the dog with the least fleas. My only hope is that the passionate people who advocate for one position or another realize that there is no silver bullet that will make the U.S. health care system a Utopian environment.

  15. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 08/25/2009 - 09:10 am.

    The most important thing I heard Amy say is “we need to take our time” on health insurance reform. How long Amy? Five years? Twenty years? 100 years?

    I was appalled by her condescending and arrogant attitude during the call. She talked down to callers and said nothing of consequence other than “we need to take our time”.

    Also, I was appalled that Amy seems to think those standing in line pleading for help in this recession should wait and wait and wait while Amy takes her time and brags, as she did during the call, about speaking with Senator So and So about this and that.

    What makes me angriest of all is that almost all over the age of 50 have some pre-existing condition and difficulties buying health insurance when laid off as older workers lose their jobs in droves. Older workers are the new minorities–last hired and first fired. And, no, most of these workers are not looking for huge salaries–they have a strong work ethic and are looking for honest work that pays a living wage.

    I highly doubt I will ever vote for Amy again.

  16. Submitted by Mitch Berg on 08/25/2009 - 11:29 am.

    As someone who voted enthusiastically against A-Klo, and will do it again, I wasn’t especially surprised by her gutless retreat to a “Tele-Town-Hall” format, the relative fiasco it turned out to be from a technical standpoint, or her vacuity on the issue. As her opponents predicted, she is an empty suit, albeit an impeccably tailored one.

    Still, as she pointed out over and over and over, it is a complex issue – moreso than even those to her left will allow:

    It’s really not very complex at all Senator; the model for unversal, affordable, prevention-oriented health care is right in front of you in the model of virtually every industrialized country in the world. And, in every case it involves some sort of government assisted program!

    Right, but not every industrialized country uses the same model.

    You have the “Healthcare as big government bureaucracy” model, like in the UK, Canada and Sweden, which is what most of “you” are talking about, and which is an utter disaster (albeit a disaster with impeccable PR among the American left).

    Then there’s the “Mega-HMO” model, as used in Germany and (IIRC, and I may not) Norway, which essentially uses hundreds of risk pools to mix public and private funding in a manner that’s fairly complex but, compared to the UK or France, is fairly cost-effective and still retains some of the strengths of private insurance.

    So which is better?

    To be honest, your answer, while interesting, will likely depend more on your institutional prejudices on the issue; most people on both sides of the issue are crushingly illiterate about the real-world effects of any of the options available (and I include myself, and I’ve worked in the field). To be fair, “institutional prejudice” combined with “craven, commitment-free pandering” is all A-Klo has to work with, either.

  17. Submitted by Mike O'Hara on 08/25/2009 - 05:45 pm.

    “Presumably by now, most of us have a pretty good idea where we stand.”

    By now? We are at the very beginning of a huge process. There is no realistic bill to get behind. We have a hundred ideas floating around about how to get universal coverage, how to reduce costs. This is going to take years to figure out. Why would you expect Sen. Klobachar to have an answer neatly packaged? I know that Sen. Klobachar is committed to the principles of universal coverage and payment reform. I know that she understands the issues and has some pragmatic ideas about different approaches to address the problems. In the fluid state we’re in, that’s all I can expect. I trust that she’ll be on the right side when the time comes.

  18. Submitted by William Pappas on 08/30/2009 - 09:33 pm.

    As a life long liberal I couldn’t be more disappointed with Senator Klobuchar. While republicans work up a lather of disinformation the democrats we counted on such as Klobuchar are beginning to sound like their republican coleagues. “We have to take our time on this”? Are we talking republican spin here, Amy. Republicans somehow feel our health insurance is adequate while democrats like Klobuchar waffle on the very idea of effective insurance. Let’s face it, single payer, universal health coverage has been shown to be by far the most efficient, cost effective, and consumer friendly form of coverage. Get with it, Senator Kobuchar, or risk being a one termer.

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