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Sen. Tina Smith’s staff hear Bemidji perspective on health care

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith

BEMIDJI -- Members of U.S. Sen. Tina Smith’s, D-Minn., staff said Tuesday during a roundtable that the legislator supports the idea of a single payer system for the country. But at the moment, she is still exploring what model would work best.

“She hasn’t signed on to the version that’s been introduced in a bill yet,” said Lindsay McLaughlin, health care and aging outreach director for Smith’s office. “She wants to make sure we’re taking the correct approach for the United States if we do this.”

The legislation proposed in the Senate is a “Medicare For All” bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“She’s considering all options at this point,” McLaughlin said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re here, to understand what Minnesotans want and get their perspective. We’ve heard a very broad range of opinions.”

National health care models was one of a few topics brought up during Tuesday’s roundtable discussion, held at the Bemidji Public Library. The event was part of Smith’s Health Care Cost Listening Tour, a series that has also made stops in Duluth, St. Cloud, Winona, Mankato, Rochester, Alexandria and Moorhead.

“Some of the main things we’re hearing about at these meetings are the cost of prescription drug prices, workforce shortages in the health care field and the general costs of insurance, regardless of the coverage,” McLaughlin said.

On the subject of prescription drug prices, McLaughlin informed those at Tuesday’s meeting about a bill Smith introduced titled the Affordable Medications Act. According to McLaughlin, the legislation would increase the ability of the government to negotiate prices and allow for more transparency.

Another point of discussion Tuesday was on the subject of dental care. Those in attendance, including Northern Dental Access Center Executive Director Jeanne Larson, talked about how many health plans don’t include dental care. Additionally, the overall cost and access to dental care was discussed.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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