Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for the ‘Health Care’

No, Thank You.

March 07, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Health Care No Comments →

I recently held a town meeting in a small town on the Western side of my Senate district. As the town meeting turned its focus to the budget crisis, one gentleman stood up claiming to have all of the answers regarding Minnesota’s budget woes. He said he had a proposal for “solving the state’s budget deficit without raising taxes.” I said I was interested in his “list” and he said he would be sure to send it to me. Sure enough, a few days ago I received a document outlining what some of those cuts might look like. Here is a small sampling of some of what Minnesota could expect (and I quote):

• Eliminate intrusive and ineffective home visiting and mental health screening programs
• Eliminate Early Childhood Professional Development
• Eliminate Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and Intervention Programs
• Eliminate Preschool screening and ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education)
• Eliminate Early Childhood Literacy
• Eliminate After School Community Learning Grants
• Repeal the public school staff development mandate
• Reduce the number of MNSCU campuses
• Require the DNR to fully self-fund via fees
• Eliminate Local Government Aid
• Reduce Court appropriations and increase attorney’s annual license
• Reduce Human Rights Department funding
• Provide Health Insurance subsidies, not Health care services and payments

No thank you. If this list is a solution, count me out. The cuts to early childhood education alone would set this state back 30 years creating a host of problems for years to come. We need to reaffirm the connection between intelligent investments and the public benefits we receive in return. We are a state of community minded people who care about our children, our neighbors, the elderly, and the poor. We value these public assets and most of us are more than willing to pay for them.

The document to which I refer comes from the Minnesota Budget Solutions Coalition which includes organizations such as the Minnesota Majority, Taxpayers League of Minnesota, Minnesota Family Council, and NFIB Minnesota Chapter… to name a few.

GAMC Smackdown

February 19, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care No Comments →

I first learned of the Governor’s veto of the GAMC (Government Assistance Medical Care) program when I picked up the newspaper off the front porch this morning. I was more than disappointed. The elimination of the GAMC program, effective April 15th, will mean nearly 35,000 extremely low income adults will be without basic physical and mental health care at any given time. Most are men (60%), most struggle with mental illness and/or chemical dependence (70%), many have chronic disabilities (40%), and are homeless (25-40%). Many of the adults who qualify for GAMC are living on $203 per month (maximum $677 per month). This is nowhere near enough income to pay for basic necessities or health insurance premiums.

I had hoped the Governor would sign this bill. Controversial or even costly aspects of the bill were removed to accommodate some of the concerns of the Governor. The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support garnering a 47-16 vote in the Senate and a 125-9 vote in the House, however, House Republicans say they are not interested in an override meaning a lot of votes would flip-flop should the bill be revisited.

The life of a community and the measure of our moral fiber as a people depends on the way we treat those who are most vulnerable. We can count pennies in our attempt to balance a budget, but we should never lose sight of the human community we hope to create. Failure to do so is the ultimate morning headline.

Friendship House

October 31, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care, Rice County No Comments →

What is the cost of not paying for mental health care? What is the cost of turning our backs on persons with mental disabilities? What is the cost of failing to provide community support for some of our most vulnerable citizens?
This past Wednesday I had the privilege to sit down with my friends at the Friendship House in Faribault. Among the two dozen or so persons present were consumers, case managers, the director, clinical psychologists, case managers, social workers, and a couple of legislators. The discussion touched on a variety of topics, but the concerns kept coming back to adequate state funding. As a state we must continue to find the resources to support organizations like Friendship House. Success is more likely if an individual has access to a combination of medication, supportive counseling and community support services, including education and vocational training. Working to keep those with mental disease out of our Psychiatric hospitals saves millions of dollars while providing dignity and a basic quality of life. It’s a small price to pay.
Friendship House continues to provide the supportive environment in which mental health consumers can socialize, and provide and receive support. With our help, educating and informing the public, employers, and policy makers, a higher value will be placed on recovery and the quality of life that a person with a severe mental illness can achieve.

Long Term Budget still needs Fix

October 03, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Health Care No Comments →

I was reading a letter to the editor a few weeks ago from a reader who was surprised to see the world had not ended as a result of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s unallotment solution to fix the budget deficit for the FY 2010-11 biennium. The writer cited a lack of crying and gnashing of teeth as proof that the Governor’s unprecedented actions were justified in these tough economic times. The truth is, many schools have had some difficulty securing short term loans to make ends meet due to delayed payments and many of the unallotment plans, such as general assistance medical care and higher education, will not go into effect until 2010. In addition, the unallotment solution did nothing to resolve the more looming problems of the future. The decision to rely heavily on one-time measures to fix the current deficit will have long term implications as Minnesota is facing persistent budget deficits.
According to the Minnesota Budget Project (July 2009) the deficit could increase substantially, depending on a number of factors:
• If delayed payments to school districts are repaid (and they should be), the deficit would increase by up to $1.8 billion.
• If General Assistance Medical Care is restored, a program for very low-income adults without children, the deficit would increase by up to $890 million.
• If the impact of inflation is taken into account, the deficit would increase by $1.4 billion.
• If the economy does not improve as was forecasted this past February, the deficit would increase by an unknown amount.
When the state’s next economic forecast is released – likely in early December, Minnesota could face another huge budget deficit for 2012-13 and may see additional deficit open up for the current biennium. Without additional federal stimulus funds, which lessened the impact of the current deficit, we face fewer resources to solve future deficits. We as lawmakers must solve the budget crisis with an eye to the future considering all budget-balancing solutions.

The Next Governor

September 25, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy, Health Care No Comments →

loonEven though the election is over a year away, the race for Governor is in full swing. I have had several calls from candidates and have enjoyed lunch or a cup of coffee with a numerous others, looking for support. Politicians from both parties have declared their candidacy, started exploratory campaigns, or are still considering a run for the right to succeed Tim Pawlenty as Minnesota’s 40th Governor.

How do you decide at this point? With 15- 20 candidates in the ring you wonder how one candidate can get enough momentum to carry them to the endorsing conventions next spring followed by a real possibility of a primary election. No doubt, these candidates are working hard. I see them at parades and fundraisers in towns like Montgomery and Gaylord, all trying to meet the party faithful and raise the dollars necessary for a statewide campaign.

There are some excellent candidates for Governor. You have your choice of women and men, out state or metro, with experiences ranging from former U.S Senators, the Speaker of the House, former and current legislators, prosecutors, and big city mayors. Some have been running for years while others wait to announce.

What does Minnesota hope to find in its next Governor? We need a governor who puts Minnesota first, someone willing to work with the House and Senate regardless of party labels. He or she must consider all options for resolving a budget deficit seeking long term solutions. Those solutions should involve job creation, investment in our infrastructure –our roads, bridges, and improved transit serving both metro and out state Minnesota. Education must be a top priority for the next Governor. An innovative, resourceful, and educated workforce becomes a reality by investing in our early childhood programs, K-12, and our colleges and Universities. The next Governor should welcome health care reform and show the nation that Minnesota can be a leader, rather than a follower; in making sure all Minnesotans have access to quality care. The next governor must pay attention to our energy and environmental needs now and in the future, crafting policy that reflects the needs of our rural and urban landscape. A great communicator with real leadership and passion would be frosting on the cake.

That’s a tall order. But with this many candidates, we should be able to weed out the very best and brightest of all of them. I’ll be listening. I will be asking questions. Stay tuned. A candidate for Governor will be coming soon to an event near you.

Fired Up and Ready to Go

September 13, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care No Comments →

obamaYesterday, I stood on the floor of the Target Center listening to President Obama, standing 20 feet away; speak on the need for health care reform. It was vintage Obama: a truly inspiring speech with a great message. “I am not the first President to talk about health care reform, but I will be the last!” The crowd in attendance roared their approval throughout the speech, which was not surprising. Who could argue the points made clear by this President, making the Twin Cities his first stop after addressing a joint session of Congress and the nation on health care a few nights ago?
• Americans should not be denied access to health care due to a pre-existing condition.
• Persons should not be dropped by their insurance company when they become ill.
• If we lose our job we should not lose our health insurance.
• The rising costs of health care have dwarfed the real increases in wages and inflation.
Over the past several months I have wondered where the supporters of health care reform have been. Well, nearly 17,000 of them showed up in Minneapolis on a beautiful Saturday morning to voice their support for something other than the status quo. Obama reiterated, “The time for games is passed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health care for every American.” We left the Target Center “fired up and ready to go.”

Health-y Debate?

August 09, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care No Comments →

health-careThere has been a lot of press lately about health care reform in this country. Congress is hammering out ideas to overhaul the U.S. health care system while individual states, like Minnesota, press their own ideas as to what health care reform should look like. The discussion is welcome; however, I hope the discussion can continue as a civil and productive exchange based on facts and truths instead of misinformation and fear mongering.
The truth is our health care system is in need of reform. For years we have all seen how rising health insurance costs have eaten away at our paychecks. Co-workers continue to work “just for insurance” with high deductibles and even less coverage, while some neighbors have chosen to give up paying for insurance altogether because it has become unaffordable. Recent campaigns have focused on the need for health care reform and it remains a top priority for most Americans as they try to make ends meet in a tough economy.
Are we really content with the status quo? Last week, a gentleman from Belle Plaine told me of his need for a knee replacement but will have to wait until just before Christmas before anyone can see him. A Northfield man, without insurance, gets his care at the Northfield Hospital emergency room. Everyone knows a neighbor or relative who can share their own tales of health care gone bad. States such as Massachusetts have introduced their own reform plan while some critics have used that plan as a punching bag saying it is costing millions and fails to deliver. However, a recent article in the Boston Globe spelled out a different scenario. In a report this spring, by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, this health care plan cost the state four-tenths of 1% of the state’s $27 billion budget. And the state’s plan has a public approval rating of 69%.
Our health care system needs reform. We need to curb spiraling costs (which today absorbs roughly one out of every six dollars spent in the United States) and we need to expand access to the 47 million uninsured Americans. Ironically, while the American people find themselves priced out of health insurance and healthcare, the CEOs of America’s largest for-profit health insurers are making record salaries and perks . . . like private corporate aircraft, country club memberships, and a lifestyle most Americans can only dream about.
It’s long overdue that the American people hit the streets to demand guaranteed and affordable healthcare. But let’s do it in a bipartisan manner. Let’s tone down the rhetoric and ramp up some serious conversation. Let’s take the best ideas out there and find a solution to a problem that is only getting worse.

The Governor Unallots

June 16, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Property taxes and college tuition will rise, hospitals and nursing homes will see deeper cuts, and school districts may be forced to borrow to make ends meet after Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty enacts his proposed unallotments. Pawlenty announced his intentions to drastically reduce funding for aid to cities and counties, cut funding for nursing homes, and to shift nearly $1.8 billion in school funding at a press conference this afternoon.
Unallotment is a little used power that was put into law in 1939 that allows the Governor to cut funding for state expenditures. It was originally designed to aid in fixing small, unanticipated budget deficits. The power has been used only six times in 70 years, with Pawlenty using it three of those times. The Governor’s proposed $2.7 billion unallotment is larger than all five of the previous unallotments combined and nearly 10 times more than the largest.
The Governor’s proposed unallotments include:
• $300 million in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, primarily used for local public safety and essential services
• $1.77 billion K-12 education funding shift that may cause some schools to have to borrow to bridge funding
• $51 million decrease to the renters’ refund program resulting in a tax increase for renters
• $236 million reduction of health care, including eliminating the General Assistance Medical Care program, which provides health care for the sickest and poorest Minnesotans, one and a half months sooner than would have happened as a result of Pawlenty’s line-item veto
• $100 million cut to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota
• $33 million in cuts to most state agency operating budgets
The cuts to aid for cities and counties are particularly troubling. Cutting LGA (Local Government Aid) is likely to lead to increases in property taxes and cuts to local police and fire departments and additional basic services. The State has a budget deficit, but the problem seems to keep getting passed on to local governments. In addition, reductions in funding for hospitals and our higher education institutions will mean additional private and public sector job losses throughout the state. It doesn’t make sense to cut even more jobs when our state is struggling with high unemployment.

Medical Marijuana

May 20, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education, Health Care No Comments →

A few months ago, just before heading up to the Capitol, I had coffee with a young lady from LeSueur, Minnesota. Her mother, almost 50 years old, had been diagnosed with a rare disease after having been treated for breast cancer. Her mother is now in constant pain. When she takes a shower, the water feels like razor blades slicing every inch of her body. She is most comfortable curled up in a ball on the couch in her living room. The daughter, with tears in her eyes, asked me to support the medical marijuana bill moving through the legislature.
The session now over, people are taking their shots at legislation that I voted for or against. In a letter to the editor today, one constituent proclaimed my yes vote for medical marijuana was wrong (he actually said I support legalizing marijuana, which I absolutely do not). He went on to say that because I am a teacher, my vote for medical marijuana means I am a poor role model for students.
The term “role model” has passed into general use to mean any “person who serves as an example, whose behavior is emulated by others.” In behavioral terms I am proud to say I have never used marijuana or tried marijuana. I can’t even say that I “just inhaled” even though the drug was fairly prevalent in my college dormitory in the late 1970’s. What I am even more proud of is the fact that I teach my students to look at an issue and apply a balanced, comprehensive, straightforward, approach that will lead them to draw their own conclusions. That is what I model.
If my voting patterns in the Minnesota Senate serve as an example to my students, I hope they pay attention to the hundreds of votes I take every session. It may lead them to believe in the importance of caring for all Minnesotans, our pre-school children, our K-12 students, our college students, the poor and the homeless, our workers and their families, our most vulnerable and frail, and perhaps a terminally ill mother …looking for something, anything, to relieve her pain.

So Now What?

May 15, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

The Governor, as stated in a press conference yesterday, said he would decide to take matters into his own hands and use his line item veto pen and power of unallotment to balance the budget. He says if the legislature can’t do it, he will have to do it himself. There are several things wrong with this scenario, none of which are good for Minnesota.

First of all, Governor Pawlenty says the legislature has not done its job. On the contrary, all of the major budget bills have been placed on his desk earlier than at any time in recent memory. All of the major budget bills, with the exception of the Health and Human Services budget bill (which cut over $500 million), have made deeper cuts than what the Governor had proposed. The Governor’s health care budget bill was debated in the Senate several weeks ago. It received 9 votes.

The Senate and House have developed several plans to come up with a balanced approach to resolving this budget crisis. We have cut budgets, maximized federal stimulus dollars, and introduced a revenue bill which was promptly vetoed by the Governor. The Senate chose not to employ accounting shifts, delay payments, or borrow against future income from tobacco bonds. When the House placed the Governor’s tobacco bond provision on the floor of the House a few weeks ago, it received 2 votes.

What will unallotment mean for Minnesotans? The Governor, last night, has already line item vetoed over $381 million in General Assistance Medical payments to hospitals. The impact of this unallotment? The Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague will lose $185,000 in GAMC payments in 2011. The Northfield Hospital stands to lose $113, 776. At the top end, the Hennepin County Medical Center will be out $108 million and Regions Hospital in St. Paul will eliminate $46 million from its GAMC program in 2011. Not only do patients suffer, but these cuts mean lost jobs and income for our communities. And all of us will end up paying more to insurance companies or hospitals, as more people end up in emergency rooms for primary care, provided any emergency rooms remain open.

capitol-photoThe Governor has also indicated that he will unallot Local Government Aid to our cities and towns in July. Cities are still reeling from the unallotment that took place this past December. Loss of LGA means serious budget cuts to our local services such as police and fire protection, libraries, street maintenance, and other community services. It most certainly means greater property tax increases to make up the difference.

The House and Senate will continue to work with the Governor to find some compromise. He has indicated his willingness to talk to us about shifts, money from the Reserve account, and additional borrowing. The House will have to decide whether an override attempt is in order, the Senate already having override numbers. With a Monday midnight deadline, we will continue to work with the executive branch to wrap this up without having to slash, even further, those budgets that affect communities and our most vulnerable.