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Honorable Tim Walz

Representing the 1st District of MINNESOTA

Walz, Minnesota Coalition Fight for Medicaid, Rural Health Security

Jul 31, 2017
Press Release
In Rochester and Mankato, alliance raises united voice to defend Medicaid, protect wellbeing of southern Minnesota communities

ROCHESTER & MANKATO, MN – Today, U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) gathered with a broad coalition of local and state officials, public and private organizations, and First District constituents in Rochester and Mankato to announce their partnership and common purpose: ensure all Minnesotans have access to high quality, affordable health care. The united front spoke strongly in support of Medicaid, and is committed protecting and promoting programs like it that positively impact folks’ lives and rural communities all across Minnesota.

“Medicaid is a lifeline many of our fellow Minnesotans depend on for health and financial security,” said Rep. Walz. “In particular, rural Minnesotans – seniors, working-class families, veterans, vulnerable children, expecting mothers, folks with disabilities – and the communities that serve them have arguably the most to lose from President Trump and congressional Republicans’ recently proposed cuts to Medicaid. If enacted, these drastic cuts would almost certainly close down rural nursing homes and hospitals, costing many folks their jobs and many others convenient hospital services and roofs over their heads.

“Thanks to this courageous coalition of Minnesota leaders, those who seek to dismantle this lifesaving program have a big fight ahead of them,” continued Walz. “Unfortunately for President Trump and congressional Republicans, we are here to say with one resounding voice that we will never quit fighting to protect Medicaid and the people and communities it serves in Minnesota.

“I couldn’t be more proud to fight together with all who joined in forming this alliance for rural health security,” Walz closed. “My sincerest gratitude goes out to those who bravely shared their Medicaid stories with us today, and I look forward to continue fighting to protect Medicaid alongside you. Together, we will protect and defend this vital program.”

Rep. Walz partnered with the following individuals to form the unofficial Rural Minnesota Health Security Coalition that joined in support of Medicaid today:

  • Commissioner Emily Piper; MN Department of Human Services
  • Paul Fleissner; Director, Olmsted Community Services
  • Dr. Jennifer Rho, MD; Zumbro Valley Health Center
  • Kristi Halvarson; Executive Director, Community Health, Inc.
  • Director Phil Claussen;  Blue Earth County Social Services
  • Douglas Jaeger Jr; Chief Executive Officer, Open Door Clinic
  • Kari Fletcher; Mother of two adopted children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder
  • Jarod Boynton, Medicaid recipient

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health and long-term care coverage to more than 1 million Minnesotans, including low-income children, pregnant women, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities. More specifically, Medicaid covers every 1 in 2 Minnesotans with disabilities, every 1 in 2 Minnesota nursing home residents, every 1 in 4 Minnesota children, every 2 in 5 low-income Minnesotans and every 1 in 8 Minnesota adults, according to the Foundation.

In addition to protecting Medicaid and the folks and rural communities it serves, Rep. Walz remains committed to working with both sides of the aisle and all interested parties to identify and advance commonsense health care reforms that work for all Minnesotans.

The following are testimonials on Medicaid from Minnesotans:

Commissioner Emily Piper, Minnesota Department of Human Services

“MinnesotaCare and Medicaid have been spared for now, but we must continue championing affordable, quality health care for all Minnesotans,” said Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “We know that health care will continue to be a target in Washington, and we face challenges at the state level as well.  Washington should look to states like Minnesota as a national model for innovative delivery of comprehensive health coverage for the people of our state.”

Paul Fleissner, Director of Human Services, Olmsted County

“We have over 25,000 people on MA in Olmsted County. The ACA supported an additional 7,000 people to gain health care coverage. 16,600 families with children rely on Medicaid in our community for their health care coverage. In addition, several thousand elderly and individuals with disabilities rely on Medicaid for their healthcare and other supports. As Congress continues the debate over healthcare reform, I fail to understand how taking folk’s healthcare away is an improvement no matter how they spin it.”

Dr. Jennifer Rho M.D., Medical Director for Primary Care, Zumbro Valley Health Center (Rochester)

“Zumbro Valley Health Center is a key safety net provider for the region's Medical Assistance population. Many of our clients have chronic health issues that require ongoing treatment to help stabilize their conditions. Since the majority of these people utilize Medical Assistance, we are concerned for their well-being if these benefits were to be reduced or eliminated.”

Douglas L. Jaeger Jr., MBA, Chief Executive Officer, Open Door Health Center (Mankato)

“Expanded access to Medical Assistance has definitely increased access to needed medical, dental and behavioral health services for many Open Door Health Center patients. Over the last 5 years, our patient uninsurance rates have decreased significantly from 58% to 35%, which has enabled our patients to seek primary care at appropriate times instead of going to the Emergency Room.  We know that overall this saves resources in the healthcare system and has a positive impact on population health.  In addition, having more people covered by insurance helps stabilize our operating budget to help ensure that we can continue to provide critical services to people in the region.”

Kristi Halvarson, MHA, Executive Director, Community Health Service Inc. (Rochester)

“The proposed changes to Medicaid would certainly have a detrimental impact on our patients. We know that without Medicaid coverage patients are more likely to delay medical care or forego it completely. It’s generally more expensive to care for patients whose diabetes is out of control, or who skipped cancer screenings and now face tragic diagnoses. Any short-term savings would be dwarfed in comparison to the potential long-term costs to the system as a whole.”

Kari Fletcher, Mother of two adopted children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (Mankato)

"As the adoptive parent of two former foster children who have lifelong disabilities due to prenatal exposure to alcohol, I want to speak about the very real and tangible difference that Medicaid has made in our lives. Individuals with FASD face heartbreaking secondary disabilities like homelessness, joblessness, incarceration, mental illness, school disruption, trouble with the law and substance use issues at alarming rates. Disability services such as case management, personal care attendants and life skills workers have proven to be protective factors that can reduce or eliminate secondary disabilities and they have been available to us only through Medicaid. My children are incredible people who have greatly blessed our lives and they are doing well thanks to the services we have received. I am so grateful to live in a state that values and supports them!"

Jarod Boynton, Medicaid recipient (Rochester)

“My name is Jerod Boynton. I live at the Wing House in Rochester, a transitional living home for people like me with brain injuries. When I was asked if I wanted to talk about Medicaid I told them I like to talk in analogies because that is how I understand things. I came up with this analogy to explain how important Medicaid is to me: Having to navigate life without Wing House and programs paid for by Medical Assistance would be like dropping me off in the desert with no water.  I can honestly say Medicaid  has saved my life.

“In 2008 I was in a terrible car accident. I was airlifted from Mankato to Mayo clinic in Rochester with a broken neck, spinal cord injury, broken ribs and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I lost sight in my left eye.  I have chronic pain from metal rods in my back and a metal plate in my neck.  I had to relearn how to communicate and put sentences together. I continue to struggle with TBI symptoms like short term memory issues, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder.

“My accident happened just a few hours before I was supposed to start a new job which had health insurance. So I was not insured at the time of my accident. I qualified for Medical Assistance. My parents helped pay additional medical costs with their retirement savings. 

“Medicaid began paying for physical therapy, occupational therapy and memory training at the Mayo Brain Rehab Program. I had struggled with chemical use before my accident but my brain injury and chronic back pain sent me into complete chaos and down the dark and difficult path of addiction for several years. I was sent home with 27 different pills.

“Medicaid gave me the opportunity to attend treatment centers that helped me get onto the path to sobriety. I went to Vinland Center, an inpatient addiction treatment facility that specializes in addiction and brain injuries as well as the Intensive Residential Treatment Services at Zumbro Valley Health Center. 

“These MA funded services gave me the foundation for dealing with my chronic pain, the emotional/psychological effects of my trauma and my addiction. 

“Today, Medical Assistance pays for my services at Wing House.   At Wing House I am able to stay connected with Zumbro Valley’s recovery and mental health services.  Wing House gives me the structure to focus on my sobriety, my independent living skills and my new part-time job.

“Without MA I would likely be homeless and still addicted.   And given the direction my life was headed I can honestly say my family would be planning my funeral. Medicaid services have given me the chance to get a good grip on life. With the services Medicaid covers I can build my weaknesses into strengths over time which will make me an asset to society instead of a burden. 

“I am proud and happy to say I am  here today with a smile full of new teeth, a new false eye, healthier relationships and a job where I work 5 days a week and with 9 months of sobriety!

“Thank you for listening to how important Medicaid is to me.”