All Minnesotans deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare. Waste and bureaucracy are out of control in both public and private settings.As a physician, these are some changes I want to make as a legislator:
Protect the doctor-patient relationship. Medical decisions should be made by patients and their doctors. When politicians or insurance managers get involved, patients suffer and develop complications. Society pays with higher premiums and taxes.
Expand MinnesotaCare with a buy-in program. This would make an affordable, high-quality network of care an option for all individuals.
Ensure that entrepreneurs and people trying to start small businesses are not prevented from participating in the free market economy because they would have to give up health insurance that is tied to another job.
Reduce costs. Medical procedures should be priced more in line with what other countries pay. Currently they are many times higher, while our outcomes are poorer in many areas.
Streamline our payer system so that hospitals can focus on health care. Hospitals should not have entire floors of billing offices, when they can’t cover their nursing shifts, patients wait for hours in the ER, and clinics are booked out for months.
Demand price transparency. Patients deserve accurate cost estimates before being asked to make health care decisions. Bills should be understandable and easy to read.
Minnesotans expect the best quality education. Our job growth and economic prosperity depend on investing in world class education for all Minnesota students. Shortages, cutbacks and funding gaps do not serve Minnesota students or society.
I believe we need to prioritize educational funding of public schools so that all students have access to the best quality public education.
I support universal pre-K education so that all kids are off to a healthy start when they enter kindergarten.
Our kids are our future. I believe in providing fair pay for the teachers and staff who guide their development and learning.
Higher education should not involve crushing debt, or a one-size fits all, four-year college approach. A skilled and diverse workforce requires us to provide a variety of affordable options.
Getting kids safely back to school should be our state’s top priority right now.
Physical education and living skills need to be a high priority so our state can be healthy and financially stable.
COVID has revealed gaps in our education system. We should raise our standards in math education and science literacy so that people have a better grasp of basic health statistics and other topics that are constantly in the news, and what these numbers mean for them.
Fiscal responsibility is a Minnesota value. We need to balance our budget and, in these tough times, make sure we are getting the most for our money, by investing in ways that will give us good economic reward long-term.
Taxes need to be fair. The middle class is already squeezed with health care, education and housing costs. Those who pay more in taxes need to be able to look at our state’s economy and see that their contribution is yielding returns. Safety net programs should be scrutinized to ensure that funds reach their intended targets, with a minimum of administrative expense.
We are going to have some tough economic decisions ahead of us. But necessity is the mother of invention. While COVID has hit some industries badly, for others it’s created a boom. We can support workers and business owners who’ve taken a hit, and learn from industries that are thriving. As examples, we can take advantage of our expanded capabilities in telemedicine and distance learning.
We cannot expect to be fiscally stable as a state if we are not raising our children to know the value of financial responsibility. We can’t reform broken state or federal programs if no one understands how they work. Students should learn from a younger age than they currently do about the basics of student loans, credit card debt, social security, and disability.
Environment and Conservation
Minnesota is a pioneer in renewable energy.Our cherished traditions that link us to the outdoors also give us inspiration to create jobs of the future in wind energy, solar power and electrification.
I support initiatives that will lower carbon emissions, increase clean energy usage, and create jobs in the process.
As a 6th generation Minnesotan, I am proud of our lakes, rivers, wetlands, parks, trails and wilderness, and want to protect them for generations to come.
I will work to actively promote the many classic Minnesota traditions that get people outdoors, encourage good health, teach us about food sources, and make us appreciate the environment, like hunting and fishing, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, and boating. I know from growing up with a heritage that centered around time with family at the lake, camping, hunting, and outdoor activities of every kind, that Minnesota has an activity for everyone. Each of us has a place in conservation of our beautiful state and in the response to climate change.
Mental Health Services
Our mental health care system needs reform.As your representative I will fight to change this. I have the insider experience to know what needs to be addressed, and how.
We have a severe shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. Minnesota hospitals are prohibited by state law from adding more beds, even when doing so might profit the hospital and save money for the state.
We waste a lot of money every day driving patients all across the state. For example, if a patient in Winona needs a hospital bed, and the closest one available is in Thief River Falls, they will be sent there by ambulance, while a patient in Grand Marias is being driven to Marshall at the same time. Distance is overlooked.
We are outsourcing much of our treatment to for-profit hospitals in North Dakota. Minnesota counties pay the bills.
We over-diagnose childhood conditions, and overprescribe many powerful medications to both children and adults, while neglecting many underlying social, educational and lifestyle factors.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), an agency that makes decisions about the mental health needs of thousands of patients, needs to be restructured.
Our mental health policies and laws are outdated, and differ across Minnesota’s 87 counties. We spend a lot of time and money trying to synch policies and payments using outdated rules. We should be addressing problems like suicide and substance abuse instead.
Mentally ill people are being put in our jails, while we often put criminally inclined people in the hospital. We rely on judges and police officers to make admission decisions that should be made by health care providers.
It is time to legalize adult-use marijuana. As a doctor I am knowledgeable about the effects of marijuana. Marijuana is less of a health risk than many legal substances, including cigarettes and alcohol. I believe our current laws criminalizing marijuana cause far more harm than good.
Decriminalize adult use of marijuana and allow personal cultivation
Expand medical marijuana program and improve availability to veterans
Promote research into medical uses, including treatment for opioid addiction
Expunge past non-violent offenses related to marijuana possession
Replace failed prohibition laws with sensible, hassle-free regulations that will create jobs, generate millions annually in tax revenues, improve criminal justice equity, free up law enforcement to focus on actual crimes, and advance medical science
The world was not prepared for the pandemic. Going forward we have to be.
Pandemics unfold over both time and space and they impact communities differently. What seems like an emergency in one corner of the state might seem non-existent elsewhere. Community buy-in is hard when a one-size fits all approach is used for the whole state and when people don’t understand why.
We should evaluate the possibility of appointing regional infectious disease epidemiologists at several locations around the state, so we can monitor COVID at a more local level, and provide counties with scientifically-based, real-time recommendations they can use to implement regionally-targeted COVID plans that take variations in case rates and population density into account.
The public deserves to be as informed about infectious pandemics like COVID as they are about smoking, obesity, and other diseases that have received attention through public health initiatives. Most of the information about COVID is completely new to the public, including the statistics and terminology.
There is no agency in Minnesota responsible for lowering the mortality rate from COVID. The Department of Health monitors the situation but does not coordinate treatment. Hospitals are only accountable for their own internal outcomes. They have no obligation to help their communities keep mortality rates down. Hospitals should be held accountable for community and statewide outcomes, since they receive government assistance and tax breaks.