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Berglin will headline health care town hall

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, one of the Legislature's health care architects, will hold a town hall forum with Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, on Wednesday.

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The forum is 10 a.m. to noon at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University campus.

"On both the state and federal level, health care has become one of the most politically-contentious issues facing citizens," Olson said in a statement.

She has held several health care forums since the first of the year to inform local health care providers and the public about health care issues moving through Congress and the Legislature.

"I feel it's important we get beyond the rhetoric and provide residents an opportunity to hear the facts about what is happening in our health care system, and how decisions being made in Washington and St. Paul are affecting northern Minnesota," the Bemidji Democrat said.

Berglin, who chairs the Senate's Health and Human Services Budget Division to which Olson is also a member, will serve as keynote speaker at the event. Berglin is a nationally recognized expert on health care, and is a chief negotiator on such issues with Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, and the governor.

In the early 1990s, Berglin spearheaded the effort to create MinnesotaCare, the nation-leading program designed to provide affordable health care for working adults.

The focus of the forum will be on several key health care topics, including:

E What federal health care reform means for Minnesotans and the state's public health care system.

E How the region was affected by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision not to enroll vulnerable Minnesotans into Medical Assistance.

E How northern Minnesota hospitals could benefit from a proposed change to provider surcharges.

Beyond hearing from health care experts, attendees will also be able to ask questions and provide their own views and concerns on health care reform and related topics.

Olson said she was asked to hold the event as a follow-up to an earlier forum with local health care officials she hosted in April. During that event, local hospital officials urged Olson to help enroll Minnesotans into the expanded Medical Assistance program and to pass the change to provider surcharges. Those two moves would have provided more than $5 million in new funding for North Country Regional Hospital this year alone.

A total of $1.4 billion in federal money would have flowed to Minnesota with the enrollment, at a cost of $188 million. But Pawlenty and Republicans turned down the proposal, saying the federal money needs to be matched and the state can't afford the additional $1.2 billion.

Democrats, however, claim that the state will spend $1.2 billion anyway on health care for poor Minnesotans.

"As part of our end of session negotiations, the Legislature -- on a bipartisan basis -- fought to give the governor the authority to move thousands of very sick and very poor individuals out of our broken GAMC program and into an expanded version of Medical Assistance," said Olson.

"Taking advantage of this opportunity not only would have better served our most vulnerable citizens, it would have brought in more than $1 billion in new federal dollars for our struggling hospitals," she said. "Given the recent debate over hospital staffing and patient safety, it's important to recognize that the governor's veto cost North Country Regional Hospital enough funding to fill 50 new nursing positions."

While Pawlenty already has refused to enroll the state in the early MA program, the next governor will have the opportunity to overturn that decision when he or she takes office in January.

Prior to the forum, at 9 a.m., Olson and Berglin will tour the Northern Access Dental Center, which provides dental services to Minnesotans on public assistance programs.

Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, one of the Legislature's health care architects, will hold a town hall forum with Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, on Wednesday.

The forum is 10 a.m. to noon at the American Indian Resource Center on the Bemidji State University campus.

"On both the state and federal level, health care has become one of the most politically-contentious issues facing citizens," Olson said in a statement.

She has held several health care forums since the first of the year to inform local health care providers and the public about health care issues moving through Congress and the Legislature.

"I feel it's important we get beyond the rhetoric and provide residents an opportunity to hear the facts about what is happening in our health care system, and how decisions being made in Washington and St. Paul are affecting northern Minnesota," the Bemidji Democrat said.

Berglin, who chairs the Senate's Health and Human Services Budget Division to which Olson is also a member, will serve as keynote speaker at the event. Berglin is a nationally recognized expert on health care, and is a chief negotiator on such issues with Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, and the governor.

In the early 1990s, Berglin spearheaded the effort to create MinnesotaCare, the nation-leading program designed to provide affordable health care for working adults.

The focus of the forum will be on several key health care topics, including:

- What federal health care reform means for Minnesotans and the state's public health care system.

- How the region was affected by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision not to enroll vulnerable Minnesotans into Medical Assistance.

- How northern Minnesota hospitals could benefit from a proposed change to provider surcharges.

Beyond hearing from health care experts, attendees will also be able to ask questions and provide their own views and concerns on health care reform and related topics.

Olson said she was asked to hold the event as a follow-up to an earlier forum with local health care officials she hosted in April. During that event, local hospital officials urged Olson to help enroll Minnesotans into the expanded Medical Assistance program and to pass the change to provider surcharges. Those two moves would have provided more than $5 million in new funding for North Country Regional Hospital this year alone.

A total of $1.4 billion in federal money would have flowed to Minnesota with the enrollment, at a cost of $188 million. But Pawlenty and Republicans turned down the proposal, saying the federal money needs to be matched and the state can't afford the additional $1.2 billion.

Democrats, however, claim that the state will spend $1.2 billion anyway on health care for poor Minnesotans.

"As part of our end of session negotiations, the Legislature -- on a bipartisan basis -- fought to give the governor the authority to move thousands of very sick and very poor individuals out of our broken GAMC program and into an expanded version of Medical Assistance," said Olson.

"Taking advantage of this opportunity not only would have better served our most vulnerable citizens, it would have brought in more than $1 billion in new federal dollars for our struggling hospitals," she said. "Given the recent debate over hospital staffing and patient safety, it's important to recognize that the governor's veto cost North Country Regional Hospital enough funding to fill 50 new nursing positions."

While Pawlenty already has refused to enroll the state in the early MA program, the next governor will have the opportunity to overturn that decision when he or she takes office in January.

Prior to the forum, at 9 a.m., Olson and Berglin will tour the Northern Access Dental Center, which provides dental services to Minnesotans on public assistance programs.

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