Health care reform: where Minnesota Congress members stand

Minnesota representatives and senators returned to Washington, D.C. from the August recess Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., speaks at a health care rally on Sept. 3 in North Minneapolis.

Jules Ameel

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., speaks at a health care rally on Sept. 3 in North Minneapolis.

Jessica Van Berkel

Congress resumed work on a health care bill Tuesday after members returned from a month-long recess, during which Minnesota representatives and senators heard constituentsâÄô opinions on health care reform at town hall meetings and in teleconferences. At these forums, members of Congress addressed problems and benefits of the current health care system, and many outlined what they would want to see in a House or Senate reform bill. Commonly addressed topics included Medicare and the public insurance option, a federally funded alternative to private health insurance. The bill introduced in the House before the August recess included a public option, and is estimated to cost about $1 trillion over 10 years. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the Affordable Health Choices Act on July 15, and a bill is being drafted in the Finance Committee. Sen. Al Franken, DFL Franken supports a public option because it will give private health care plans competition and would create innovation, he said. He would have voted for the bill that passed in the SenateâÄôs Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before the recess, Franken said. The bill provides tax relief to small businesses, prohibits private health companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, creates an exchange where individuals and small businesses can become part of a larger risk pool and will lower premiums, Franken said. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL Klobuchar is in favor of a public option. She said it will help place stricter regulations on insurance companies. The Senate bill should focus on quality of care over quantity, encourage easier access to aide for seniors and encourage primary care providers to focus on rural areas, Klobuchar said. Rep. Michele Bachmann, GOP Bachmann does not support health care reform or a public option. At her town hall meeting on Aug. 27, she said the United KingdomâÄôs health care model is a âÄúdisaster that is the government takeover of health care.âÄù Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL He said he would vote in favor of the House bill, but added âÄúIâÄôm not voting for a health care bill without a public option.âÄù A public option is the only mechanism to create competition and drive down the cost of the private insurance industry, Ellison said. If the House does not pass a bill, âÄúThe world will not end in December,âÄù he said, but then House democrats should âÄúdouble up and pass it.âÄù Rep. John Kline, GOP Kline said he would not vote in favor of the bill introduced in the House, which will result in job loss and new taxes and mandates. âÄúItâÄôs complicated, itâÄôs convoluted, and itâÄôs quite simply not going to work,âÄù Kline said in a Republican National Radio address Monday. Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL She supports a public option that will âÄúincrease competition in the marketplace, keeps premium costs down and provides affordable insurance for all Americans,âÄù McCollum said at a community meeting at Macalester College on Aug. 31. Medicare needs to be fixed so waste and fraud are eliminated, and drug pricing is negotiated with pharmaceutical companies, McCollum said. She said Minnesota doctors and physicians are treated unfairly under Medicare geographic payment. Public statements from other Representatives Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL According to OberstarâÄôs website, he supports a public option and would vote in favor of the House bill. Rep. Erik Paulsen, GOP Paulsen does not support a public option, and would vote no on the House bill. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL Peterson, a blue-dog Democrat, said at would probably vote against the House reform bill, and is waiting to hear more details from President ObamaâÄôs public address on Wednesday. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL He supports a public option, and would vote in favor of the House bill.