MPIRG shifts health care goals

The group plans to launch a campaign to help raise awareness among students.

Raghav Mehta

While the future of federal health care reform remains uncertain, the student-directed Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) has launched a campaign in hopes of bringing a single-payer plan to Minnesota. The group, which had previously supported health care reform, withdrew its support from federal health care legislation this December and is redirecting its attention to fix MinnesotaâÄôs health care system. MPIRGâÄôs reasoning for withdrawal included concerns over the absence of both a public option and a provision enabling states to enact a single-payer system. The public option would be a government-run insurance program that would compete with private insurers, while the single-payer program would expand to provide universal coverage to a larger group of citizens. Due to recent shifts in the political climate, both of those provisions are becoming increasingly unlikely. âÄúItâÄôs very difficult for us to support, and thatâÄôs primarily because it really does not create a robust public option,âÄù said Joshua Winters, executive director of MPIRG. While MPIRG members have been active on the political front, Winters said there are tentative plans to engage students and raise awareness on the health care debate by organizing educational events on the University campus this semester. MPIRG has worked to define their strategy by meeting with the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition, a statewide organization focused on campaigning for a single-payer health care system. âÄúWeâÄôve worked mainly on the level of legislative strategy,âÄù said Amy Lange, executive director of the coalition. âÄúWeâÄôve had some meetings with senate staffs together.âÄù As a part of their direct lobbying effort, MPIRG has been meeting with legislative officials and officially endorsed the Minnesota Health Act âÄî a single-payer plan authored by State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield. âÄúThey attended a few of our strategy meetings on how to get the word out to the public,âÄù Bly said. MPIRGâÄôs Health Care for All campaign consists of two components: direct lobbying and organizing students to get involved. âÄúItâÄôs much more grassroots activism as well as just engagement in the political process,âÄù Winters said. He said the goal is to âÄúget people up to speedâÄù and explain why MPIRG believes single payer is a viable solution. According to a 2009 Boynton College Student Health Survey Report, a reported 16.5 percent of all college students go uninsured, with students age 25 to 29 reporting the highest rate at 28.4 percent. Winters said he thinks the insurance companyâÄôs inherent motive to make money âÄúundercuts the ability for insurers to act in the best interest of the people.âÄù MPIRG coordinator Joseph Eggers said that while legislation may take a few years, the real goal now is to get students involved.