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Dayton’s collapse during speech leaves Minnesotans shaken

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Gov. Mark Dayton speaking during Monday night's State of the State address.

At first, it was just a stumble.

Mark Dayton was walking up to the chief clerk’s desk in the Minnesota House chambers, about to deliver his seventh state of the state address as governor, when he tripped in front of a joint session of the House and Senate. The room gasped, but Dayton was caught by several people around him, and he got right back up.

“I knew I should have shown up for the walkthrough,” Dayton immediately quipped, before launching into his prepared speech.

He talked about his upcoming 70th birthday on Thursday and his decades living in Minnesota. He joked about waiting for the ice to freeze to play pond hockey and Norwegians trying to get along with Swedes. He talked about standing up to hate crimes in Minnesota — to cheers from legislators — and pushed for more funding for students, transportation and clean water. More than 40 minutes in, he was just getting to the meat of his speech: his proposal to address rising health-care costs for thousands of Minnesotans.

Then Dayton’s voice wavered.

He stopped to take a sip of water and started to speak again, but the words came out in a slur. He put his shaking hands on the lectern to brace himself, but it wasn’t enough. Dayton collapsed, hitting his forehead while those around him rushed to break his fall. Legislators gasped and sat silently as paramedics gathered around the governor, and Republican leaders quickly adjourned the joint session.

Video of Gov. Dayton collapsing during the 2017 State Of State speech by the UpTake

Dayton eventually got up and walked out of the chamber and back to the Capitol, where he got a routine checkup. His chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, said Dayton was doing fine and spending time with his son and grandson, who were both watching the speech.

But the governor’s public collapse shook the legislators and leaders who witnessed it, as well as hundreds of people tuning in over the airwaves or through a live stream. Dayton is Minnesota’s oldest-ever governor in office. He’s had two spinal surgeries in the last two years, and usually travels with a cane at his side. Last January, he was taken to the hospital and stayed overnight after fainting at a political fundraiser. That’s on top of hip and back pains that have made it increasingly difficult for him to stand at public appearances.

“We have to be concerned about the governor’s health at this point,” Republican Rep. Greg Davids said after Dayton left the House chamber. “That’s the number one priority right now.”

Dayton’s ‘public option’ plan

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka had planned to comment on the content of Dayton’s speech, but they refrained from doing so after Dayton’s collapse.

“Obviously the governor is in our thoughts and prayers. I hope for a quick recovery. He is up and about in the backroom. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Daudt told reporters. “With that, I don’t think I’ll take actual questions about the governor’s speech.”

Dayton never got to the portion of his speech that would most interest Republicans. In his prepared remarks for delivery, Dayton sets out a plan to create a “public option” in the individual health insurance market, allowing Minnesotans who earn between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level — a family of four earning from $49,200 to $97,200 per year — to purchase coverage from MinnesotaCare off of MNsure.

Gov. Mark Dayton being tended to following his collapse
Gov. Mark Dayton being tended to following his collapse while delivering the State of the State Address Monday night.

MinnesotaCare covers about 100,000 low-income individuals in mostly rural Minnesota, a number that could double if people had the option to buy into the program on MNsure. The program is currently funded by mostly federal dollars and enrollee premiums, but also includes state funding from a 2 percent tax on Minnesota hospitals and health-care providers that’s set to sunset at the end 2019. Dayton wants to repeal that sunset.

“Minnesotans need us to work together to solve their health-care problems,” Dayton had planned to say, according to his prepared remarks. “That is what, I believe, we should expect from ourselves. If we all give a little, Minnesotans will gain a lot.”

Throwing a public option like MinnesotaCare into a private insurance market is a huge change, one that hasn’t been tested in any other state in the nation. It will also need backing from the federal government and the Republican-controlled Legislature, which must approve the idea before April 1 if there’s enough time to implement it for the 2018 marketplace.

Dayton also wants the Office of the Legislative Auditor to look into the state’s private health insurers in Minnesota, and create a provision that would allow people who purchase individual health insurance with serious conditions to keep their doctors for 120 days into the new plan year.

The health-care crisis is on Dayton’s more immediate agenda this year, but left room in his speech for the issues he’s been building on for years, namely education, transportation funding and clean water. In his 2017 budget he’s proposing 2 percent increases in the per-pupil aid formula for each year of the next biennium. It’s an expensive proposal, costing about $371 million. 

“When I took office in 2011, I promised to increase Minnesota’s investments in E-12 education every year I was Governor – with no excuses, no exceptions. With your support, we have kept that promise, and I’m not going to abandon it now.”

‘Fiscal integrity’ in budget talks

Dayton will expand on many of these ideas in his full 2017 budget proposal, which he will release as previously scheduled on Tuesday morning, despite his collapse.

The governor has already released his $300 tax relief proposal and a $1.5 billion bonding bill, but his budget will detail how he thinks the more than $40 billion state budget should look for the next two years, not to mention how he wants to spend an estimated $1.4 billion budget surplus.

In his state of the state address, Dayton repeatedly talked about being fiscally responsible with the state’s budget, hearkening back to his first session in 2011, when the state faced a $6 billion budget deficit.

“In my first Inaugural Address, I promised that I would ‘clean up the state’s financial mess.’ I have kept my word. We have turned that first $6 billion projected deficit into $1.4 billion projected surpluses for each of the next two bienniums.”

Dayton promised to leave office in two years with surpluses at the end of the next two budgeting cycles, and warned legislators not to propose deep tax cuts, like those passed during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Those tax cuts set the state up for repeated budget deficits.

The governor didn’t get to the final closing remarks in his speech, but he planned to say the “state of our state is strong, and getting stronger.”

“We have much to be grateful for, and many achievements to celebrate,” according to his prepared remarks. “But we still face serious challenges. From education achievement gaps, to aging transportation infrastructure, excessive health care costs, polluted waters, and inequities within and between communities.Despite their enormity, we can solve these problems, and Minnesotans have the right to expect that we will. That is what they elected us to do.”

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/24/2017 - 10:10 am.

    I’m VERY Glad the Gov. Dayton’s Fainting Spell

    doesn’t appear to be too serious.

    I suspect he may be suffering from the same miserable 3-week “cold” that’s been going around in my area.

    (Elsewhere this has been diagnosed as influenza “A” and is not covered by this year’s flu shot.)

    Not only does this virus have respiratory symptoms,…

    but with a lot of people it moves, very suddenly,..

    into their muscles and lymph nodes,…

    just about anywhere in the body,…

    and CAN cause very severe pain.

    So far nobody’s died, but I suspect some people might have wished they could.

    Meanwhile, considering what’s going on in Washington,…

    I suspect we here in Minnesota need to start designing a system which will stabilize our OWN health care system,…

    of providing care, providing payment and keeping costs under control,…

    because the Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress seem so determined to “repeal Obamacare,”…

    and so LITTLE concerned with any type of replacement,…

    that it’s guaranteed they will unleash chaos on the healthcare and insurance systems nationwide.

    Gov. Dayton’s new “Public Option” represents an excellent start in doing exactly that,…

    though I suspect the Republican-controlled legislature would rather have chaos,…

    no matter what it does to their rural constituents and rural hospitals.

  2. Submitted by Tim Smith on 01/24/2017 - 11:09 am.

    where is the beef?

    Typical adoration for a “public option”, liberal think at it’s very best. The devil will be in the details. Let’s wait and see how he would pull this off.

    The Governor signs off on any small employer and individual health insurance rates put forth by our 5 non profit health carriers in the State. If they are asking for too much premium, he can send the request back and ask them to lower it.Apparently, he couldn’t argue with what he saw and thus the 2017 rates are in place.

    2 carriers (Preferred One and Blue Cross) pulled out of the market, oh boy this must be a real lucrative business!

    So, given all that, how is his public option going to offer rock bottom rates, huge networks and excellent first dollar benefits? Certainly you can’t without major tax subsidies, where will they come from?

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/24/2017 - 11:51 am.

      Do You Understand How Insurance Works?

      Do you comprehend WHO it is that sets the rates on MnSure?

      There’s a trade off between rates and insurance company participation.

      If rates are kept too low, EVERY insurance company will drop out.

      It’s equally strange that you complain about rates being too high,…

      but then complain about companies not being able to make enough profit.

      With Minnesota Care, the state NEGOTIATES rates together with terms and conditions for policies,…

      the insurance carrier is largely reduced to record keeping and paying claims.

      There are definite advantages to this approach for customers (reasonable rates),…

      for health care providers (a stable, dependable system in which they don’t have to wait a year for payment for services provided),…

      and for insurance companies (protection from losses should a massive epidemic or similar widespread health emergency strike the state).

      Single payer would be a far more dependable, stable, and well-protected system,…

      though chances are, our Republican friends would STILL not want to fund it sufficiently to provide adequate care for their rural constituents.

      • Submitted by Tim Smith on 01/24/2017 - 12:49 pm.

        comprehension maybe?

        you seemed to read an entirely different commentary than I actually wrote,,,,

        As stated in the my comments, the insurance company proposes them and the Governor along with the commerce secretary have the right to refuse or accept, that’s a fact.

        complain? I never complained…

        I said nothing about enough or too much profit..

        yes i know how Minn Care works never said it didn’t…but why would they want the rock bottom pricing when you add all the huge current losses to their (MN Care’s) financial profile. What they currently bid on is an entirely different risk. Facts and numbers play out again.

        Document that they wait a year please, proof of that? I will save you time, you can’t because your assertion is false.

        You are driven by extreme politics, I just state facts as they are.

        • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/24/2017 - 03:45 pm.

          So Your Statement

          “2 carriers (Preferred One and Blue Cross) pulled out of the market, oh boy this must be a real lucrative business!”…

          had nothing to do with “enough or too much profit?”

          Of course insuring people who can’t, by themselves, afford insurance is going to be expensive,…

          but those in Minnesota with all the money,…

          those whose wealth is massively out of proportion with what they have contributed to the state and the lives of the citizens around them,…

          the people from whom they have extracted that wealth (by hook or by crook),…

          have plenty and to spare when it comes to helping keep their fellow citizens from dying for lack of medical care.

          They’ll never miss the pittance it would cost them,…

          except in the way that “Smaug” the Dragon would miss even a single gold piece removed from his hoard in “Mt. Erebor.”

          Not to mention that the increased profits for the entire health care system provided by the reality that their cost of “charity care,”…

          i.e. all those uninsured patients who used to show up at the emergency room,…

          the cost of whose care the system had to write off as loss,…

          means that they can MORE than afford to kick some of those increased profits back to help pay for the system of which they are a very profitable part.

          But then perhaps it is extreme to some people to not worship money and those who appear to possess it,…

          “the love of money is the root of many evils,” and all that.

  3. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 01/24/2017 - 11:21 am.


    We need him healthy. He’s the only thing standing between us and us becoming another Wisconsin or Kansas.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 01/24/2017 - 12:34 pm.

    Couldn’t disagree with him more on almost

    everything he feels but am wishing him all the best. God bless Gov. Dayton.

  5. Submitted by Dave Monson on 01/24/2017 - 01:11 pm.

    I wish you well

    I’ve not always been on the same page as Governor Dayton, but I don’t like to see anyone experience that. Get well.

  6. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 01/24/2017 - 06:32 pm.

    Health care – Dayton’s

    I think the public needs to have a complete update on the health of our Governor.

    Most will admit that his health has been the subject of many rumors. The constant slurring of words for many years has been cause of concern. Also – some irrational behavior has been the cause of countless speculation.

  7. Submitted by Amy Wilde on 01/25/2017 - 01:41 am.

    Governor’s health care option

    Before rejecting Gov. Dayton’s Minnesota Care expansion option just because Democrats have suggested it, Republicans should consider the hard-facts merits of how this could potentially build competition and greater choice for consumers with minimal cost to the state, compared to other alternatives. 1) MnCare already exists in all parts of the state. Managed care organizations (a majority of them private) already have this product available and networks in place. Doctors and hospitals are familiar with MnCare’s benefit set and procedures. 2) Premiums are indeed negotiated, giving taxpayers a place at the table. 3) Networks must include providers within certain geographic distances to the counties served. Since it takes more than a year to set up new provider networks, only an existing product could possibly ramp up quickly enough to be ready for next fall’s enrollment window. 4) A successful, cost-effective and competitive model of public-private competition already exists: it is called Medicare. Basic Medicare is public; Medicare Advantage is private–and it has been competitive and successful for many years. Best of all, premium increases for Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement policies have been much more stable than premiums for other insurance products. 5) When the Affordable Care Act was first debated, a “public option” was advised as being desirable for regions (like Minnesota) where health plan competition is less robust. It was removed from the ACA in a futile effort to attract more conservative and moderate votes. The fact that, during the initial ACA rollout, Twin Cities customers were offered products at lower rates than customers in southeast Minnesota (where there is less competition to the higher-priced Mayo system) indicates that the “public option” supporters had a point. 6) Revitalizing the state’s pre-existing conditions insurance pool, since it has been dismantled, would take much more time. It also would not reduce premiums for many customers, unless very heavily subsidized by the state, and in the past, many people were forced into paying these higher premiums for arbitrary reasons only marginally related to their actual risk for medical care. 7) Expanded MnCare is anticipated to be paid for with customer premiums; it would not be subsidized by the state provider tax, as the current MnCare is, because enrollees would be slightly higher income and would pay higher sliding fees. 8) Yes, a federal waiver is needed, but the federal govt now appears eager to grant waivers for something that would potentially save taxpayer dollars and improve access to care. 9) Taxpayers are reluctant to merely subsidize premiums without “fixing” the system to provide more choice and lower premiums, and this would be a relatively quick way to provide that reform.
    I sat on a managed care board for 12 years, and it took HALF of that time for us to get the operation up and running, due to the need to develop a network, get approvals from multiple state agencies and the federal Center for Medicaid and Care, write policies, hire staff, etc. etc.. Minnesota residents and taxpayers don’t have five or six years to try to develop something from scratch. Expanded MnCare would offer that quickest and potentially lowest cost way to create more competition and greater choice at a reasonable cost. And to those who wonder how a “government agency” like MInnesota Care might be able to do it a little cheaper, just take a look at private health plan facilities and perks, private health plan executive pay, etc. compared to salaries and amenities at a typical government building. There is plenty of fat to trim to compete–and it is about time that voters hold the “medical industrial complex” accountable for cruelly holding consumers’ feet to the fire so they can collect higher salaries.

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