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In Winona, gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy shares vision for future of health care

From the ELECTION 2018: Our stories on Minnesota candidates who came to Winona series
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Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy, the DFL-endorsed candidate running for governor of Minnesota, sits down with local Winona residents at Blooming Grounds on Wednesday afternoon to discuss her plan to make Minnesota the first state in the nation to offer single-payer health care to its residents.

State Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul spelled out her plan for health care reform during a campaign event at Blooming Grounds Coffee House on Wednesday in Winona. During the brief round-table discussion, the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor talked up her plan to make Minnesota the first state to implement a single-payer — or government-provided — health care system.

“It’s time for us to lead the nation again,” she said.

At the core of Murphy’s health care reform plan is an expansion of the state’s low-income health plan called MinnesotaCare.

“The first step is opening up MinnesotaCare for anyone who wants to buy in,“ Murphy said, adding that this would give Minnesotans more options when choosing a health care provider.

To offset the costs of this expansion, Murphy said she would direct the Department of Human Services to begin cutting out the insurance companies and negotiate contracts directly with health care providers.

“We already spend an inordinate amount of money in health care in Minnesota and a lot of it goes into layers and layers of administration and contracted entities who are using their power to deny people care,” she said. “Let’s put that money back into the provision of health care.“

Direct contracts have already saved the state more than $200 million, according to Murphy, who championed the bill in 2010.

“We are going to wring the savings out the system and put them back into providing care,” she said.

Murphy plans to use this same principle to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to cut costs make life-saving medicine affordable.

She described how the high price of pharmaceuticals contributed to the death of a 26-year-old St. Paul man earlier this year when he aged out of his parent’s health care plan and could no longer afford his medication.

“I think we should use our purchasing power to get better deals on drug costs,” she said. “If we can’t drive down the costs by negotiating a better deal with the drug companies this way then let’s follow Vermont’s path and negotiate and buy our drugs from Canada.”

Jeff Johnson, the GOP-endorsed candidate for governor, also was in Winona on Wednesday. In a 1-on-1 interview with the Winona Daily News, he said that single-payer health care would be “disastrous” for Minnesota.

“We see that with any other state that has looked at it closely,” he said. “California and Vermont backed out because it would explode the budget. They would have had to raise taxes by a large percentage to cover it.”

Johnson also claimed it wouldn’t make health care better.

“I think people want more control over their health care rather than give it up to government control,” he said. “People are concerned about the cost of their plan, but they are comfortable with it and don’t want it taken away.”

Murphy admitted her plan wouldn’t happen overnight and would take putting pressure on the Legislature to act on behalf of Minnesotans.

“I know that it is going to take time. We have to show Minnesotans that we can actually do this,” she said. “I am not under any illusion that I can get this done in one year.”

Before Murphy can put her plan into action, she’ll first need to fend off DFL gubernatorial candidates U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Attorney General Lori Swanson in the Aug. 14 primary.

Walz, who has been the 1st District representative in Washington since 2006, also supports expanding MinnesotaCare to those who want it.

Swanson’s plan, according to the Star Tribune, would allow Minnesotans to use the state’s bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. Similar programs are in effect in Oregon and Washington.

“We are going to wring the savings out the system and put them back into providing care.” Erin Murphy, DFL-endorsed candidate for governor

Tobias Mann covers crime and government in Winona County. He can be reached at 507-453-3522 or at tobias.mann@winonadailynews.com

“We are going to wring the savings out the system and put them back into providing care.”

Erin Murphy, DFL-endorsed candidate for governor

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