I always appreciate visiting with constituents (1/25/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/25/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Thousands participated in a rally outside the State Capitol on Tuesday to support the unborn, 46 years after the United States Supreme Court legalized abortions nationwide. A number of residents from our district were part of the group, and I always appreciate visiting with constituents when they visit St. Paul.

Dozens of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle attended.

According to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the rally is designed to commemorate the lives lost to abortion (and the women and men who have been hurt as a result) and to call for renewed respect and protection for all members of the human family, including unborn children and their mothers.

Also this week, I joined Amber from Ally Supportive Services and Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik in a point-in-time homeless count.

Many of us don’t realize we have a homeless population in Hastings. The problem isn’t nearly as serious as it would be in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it is a problem nonetheless for those without reliable shelter – particularly when the temperatures are below freezing.

This was an eye-opening experience for me, as it would be for anyone. We visited with a number of residents, and spent almost an hour with one couple. We heard about their struggles, not only with finding housing but also in dealing with life’s struggles including mental health and addiction.

Some good news, Amber and her organization do an outstanding job not only in locating these residents throughout Dakota County but also in establishing a level of trust with them. She also tells me local police do a good job of ensuring their safety.

As a new member of the Minnesota House Housing Committee, learning more about the homeless issue and talking to those who are struggling locally was critical. Raising awareness is also important, and I look forward to working on solutions to homelessness in the very near future.

Last night, I was pleased to attend the Hastings Chamber of Commerce 2019 Annual Meeting and Awards dinner, and was happy to present Educator of the Year Kari Jaeger, Volunteer of the Year Ellie Lundquist, and Business of the Year Millner Family Chiropractic with House resolutions honoring their achievements.

On Friday, I visited with officials from Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park, learning how the company prioritizes employee and community safety, and has ongoing, open communication and cooperation with local emergency personnel.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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About lowering health care costs (1/18/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/18/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

According to residents I heard from last fall, the top political issue in Minnesota is lowering health care costs. It’s likely to be the top political issue at the State Capitol this year as well, as it should be.

I’ve heard Gov. Pawlenty use a three legged stool analogy when describing health care, consisting of quality of care, access to care, and cost of care. We have some of the best quality of care here in Minnesota and right now, most areas of the state have access to care. The cost of care is the leg that is still out of whack. The goal for every lawmaker this session is to improve the cost of care without damaging access and quality in the process.

Two weeks into session, I can already see we’re going to have some interesting discussions.

For example, a debate has already begun regarding the provider tax. The tax, also referred to as the sick tax – is a two percent tax levied on most patient services in Minnesota, such as doctor visits. It was eliminated as part of bipartisan legislation passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton in 2011. On January 1, this tax on patient services will disappear.

Or maybe not. Governor Walz has already said it a “nonstarter” to end the tax, and the DFL House Health and Human Services Finance Chair said it was “essential” to restore the tax or replace its revenue, which currently helps fund programs such as MinnesotaCare. If the Legislature revisits this topic, does not allow the tax to sunset and reinstates it, the cost to patients is estimated at more than $600 million a year.

Speaking of MinnesotaCare, which is a state health insurance program available for low income residents who cannot afford MNsure, legislation has already been introduced to expand this program as a buy-in option for those on the individual market.

Proponents see this as a cure-all to Minnesota’s individual market ills. Opponents note the low reimbursement rates associated with the program would make it difficult, if not impossible, for some health care providers and hospitals to stay afloat (which would impact access to care in some parts of the state); would negatively impact the private insurance market; and take another major step towards government-run health care.

The key will be finding a solution that ensures a program remains in place to help those in need.

Finally, there is the issue of reinsurance. From 2014-2017, average rates on the individual market increased by double digits every year, including up to 67 percent for 2017. That’s why lawmakers approved a reinsurance plan two years ago. It was designed to stabilize premiums by mitigating the impact of high-risk individuals, or those who are the most sick, on the individual health insurance market.

It worked. Last year all five carriers on the individual market lowered premiums for 2019, with average rates dropping between 7.4 percent and 27.7 percent.

Despite this, reinsurance was a hot topic in many House election campaigns – mine included. Under the guidance of now-Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, reinsurance was labeled as bad news, mischaracterized as giving insurance companies a $500 million blank check “with virtually no strings attached.”

Yet at a recent Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner, Hortman was asked if reinsurance should be continued. She said “yes.”

If you enjoy political drama, the possibility now exists that those who ran against reinsurance on the campaign trail could now end up voting for it. Stay tuned.

Politics and legislation aside, understand that every Republican and Democrat at the State Capitol wants to improve your health care and lower your costs. The tough part will be deciding how we go about it while maintaining the quality and access of care. I look forward to seeing how these proposals progress through the committee process, and will keep you updated as session moves forward.

This week I took part in number of local meetings, participating in the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce reception, and a legislative priorities meeting that was hosted by the City of Cottage Grove. One of the topics there was addressing concerns with the 3M settlement and using some of those funds for filtration systems within Cottage Grove, something that will be discussed again in the very near future.

Finally I was pleased to take part in a Cottage Grove ribbon cutting at the new Sushi Cafe.

Stop in for sushi, delicious bubble tea or a hibachi entree. They’re located in the center behind Kohl’s near Jimmy John’s and Anytime Fitness.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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