Minnesota COACT

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COACT's all-seasons organizing for social justice.

  members rally in January for the Minnesota 

COACT and HCAMn members rally in January for the Minnesota Health Plan with chief author Senator John Marty at a Martin Luther King Day Parade in St. Paul.


  COACT and HCAMN members at June rally 

COACT and HCAMn members rally in January for the Minnesota Health Plan with chief author Senator John Marty at a Martin Luther King Day Parade in St. Paul.


FALL 2016

COACT initiates strategy with key groups and legislator to use HMOs' costs and mismanagement as reasons for MN Health Plan

Fighting for the single-payer Health Plan means taking on the 800 lb. HMO gorilla.

With Minnesota’s health care future at stake, representatives of COACT, the Greater Minnesota Health Care Coalition (GMHCC), Physicians for a National Health Plan-MN, and Conversations on Health Care met on Oct. 12 to stand up to the HMOs to show them for what they are- failures at providing affordable and accessible health care for all Minnesotans and further limiting our choice of doctors and hospitals. 

The October meeting was initiated by COACT with Rep. John Lesch, member and past Chair of the House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee, whose experience with the HMOs’ non-compliance to law motivated him to address their lack of accountability to Minnesota taxpayers. He is a St. Paul prosecutor and an infantry platoon commander in the Minnesota National Guard "Red Bulls".

  Rep. Lesch HMO gorilla

Rep. Lesch addressed the HMOs’ non-compliance to law at Senior Caucus Day on the Hill Mar. 30. COACT’s Helene (Terry) Berg carried on her back the HMO gorilla at single- payer events to show the HMOs’ heavy toll on our health care.


The groups believe that these failures, along with waste and mismanagement of billions of tax dollars by the HMOs that run the state’s Medical Assistance program, will make the case for the Minnesota Health Plan to merit the federal waiver over Accountable Care Organizations (HMO monopolies) to be our future health care system. (See Newsletter Spring 2016 on Accountable Care Organizations for which HMO proponents want the waiver.)  

Governor Dayton, THANK YOU for your budget initiative to fund a study to compare the costs of single-payer vs. free-market health insurers!

Because the 2017 Minnesota legislature can begin deciding on which of two proposals should be Minnesota’s future health care system, Governor Mark Dayton budgeted $500,000 to fund a study to compare the cost savings of single-payer vs. free-market insurers. The most cost-efficient proposal will merit the State Innovation Waiver, under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), to become the future system. The Minnesota Health Plan will be shown to save more money than the current for-profit system.

COACT Vice President Charlie Quick (left) and COACT- endorsed Erin Koegel, newly elected Representative for House District 37A, thanked Governor Dayton for his funding initiative at her campaign gathering August 27. They were joined by other grateful single-payer supporters. Erin will serve us well as a member and leader in the single-payer legislative caucus that COACT is helping to organize. She was a teammate at COACT for the Minnesota Health Plan when she was Executive Director for Health Care for All Minnesota.  

COACT and Minnesota Farmers Union urge continuation of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program in the volatile farm economy

Farmers Union and Farmer-Lender leaders address Program at COACT Farm Picnic

With family farm income at a 20-year low, continuance of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program, which emerged from the farm crisis of the 1980s, was urged by Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson and the Program’s Director, Mary Nell Preisler, at COACT’s 36th Annual Farm Picnic, August 21, at Pierz in Central Minnesota. Minnesota’s farm economy may not be in a crisis as it was in the ‘80s when family farm foreclosures were rampant, but the Program will always be needed in the volatile farm economy, they said. It gives farmers the right to third party mediators to help restructure their debt with lenders before they proceed with foreclosure.  


MN Farmers Union President Doug Peterson speaks for the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program at COACT Farm Picnic.


Mary Nell Preisler was instrumental in establishing the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program and became its Director in 2004





COACT farmers call on Main Street businesses for their views on how the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program is working

MN Farmers Union President Doug Peterson speaks for the Farmer-Lender Mediation Program at COACT Farm Picnic.

To hear the opinions of their own Main Street creditors, COACT farmers visited two banks, a co-op, and a feed-seed-fertilizer company in Central Minnesota. All agreed that the Program is still needed and should be extended because of the erratic nature of farming and the farm economy.  

COACT testified on these creditors’ opinions to the Senate Agriculture Committee March 23. On the other hand, banking association testimony said that since the farm crisis is over, the Program needs “modernization”; and earlier they said it was a response to the crisis and only meant to be “temporary”.

Therefore, to hear Main Street’s view, we surveyed 97 Central Minnesota businesses and found that 81 percent of the responders support the Program A big reason for Main Street's support is that most of the business owners are from family farms, farm part-time, and/or have family members farming. They know that the volatile farm economy is not temporary.


COACT Education Foundation praises Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Since 2009, the COACT Education Foundation, (CEF) has been serving as fiscal sponsor for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC).
To offer CEF’s and COACT’s appreciation for NOC’s outstanding work, COACT Vice President Charlie Quick and Executive Director Don Pylkkanen attended their annual meeting April 16. There they announced that COACT members and friends will be glad to know about CEF’s relationship with NOC and their projects for which CEF has been fiscal sponsor for seven years.

“NOC is a grassroots, member-led organization building power in under-resourced communities and communities of color across the Twin Cities, focused on the intersection of race, the economy, and public policy.” See www.mnnoc.org

Sharing the same ethic of "social justice for all" makes CEF a suitable match with NOC to serve as their fiscal sponsor.

Meet NOC's new board members elected at the April 16 Annual Meeting


Governor proposes, Senate passes funding for a study to compare costs of single-payer vs free-market health insurers

COACT members lobby legislators for a study at Single-Payer Day on the Hill

COACT members joined doctors of Physicians for a National Health Program-Minnesota (PNHP-MN) at Single-Payer Day at the Capitol, March 31. Together they lobbied legislators for the single-payer Minnesota Health Plan and the study bill to compare its costs with the HMO/Accountable Care Organization (ACO) plan.

In his supplemental budget, Governor Mark Dayton recommended $500,000 to fund a study to compare the costs of single-payer versus free market insurers, which the Senate passed as part of its Health Care Omnibus Bill. However, the study funding was not voted on in Conference Committee due to opposition from HMO- ACO legislators. Thus, the recommendation of a legislated task force calling for a study was not acted on.

Despite the setback, political support for single-payer is growing because in 2017 the legislature can begin applying to the Feds for the State Innovation Waiver for Minnesota to set up its own health care program for all its citizens.

Two proposals for the waiver are being readied for legislative consideration COACT and other single-payer groups propose the "Medicare-for-all" Minnesota Health Plan; whereas the HMO side proposes concentrating HMO power into state-wide Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Both proposals must first be studies to determine which one saves Minnesotans the most money to merit the waiver.

In fact, a Health Care Financing Task Force, legislated to find ways to reduce costs, could not document the savings with ACOs. Therefore, it recommended to the legislature that a study be conducted to compare savings of single-payer with the ACO system and its expansion.



COACT member Dr. Dick Peterson, MD retired (left), and Sen. John Marty (right), author of the Minnesota Health Plan, with PMHP-MN and COACT at the Single-Payer Day on the Hill March 31.

Among the doctors lobbying for the Minnesota Health Plan was retired physician and COACT member Dr. Dick Peterson, MD, whose visit with his Brainerd area Representative revealed the "all talk but no action" position on that side of the aisle at the capitol.

In response to Dr. Peterson's referencing the Health Care Financing Task Force's study recommendation, the Representative used their sides handy excuse that an objective study couldn't be done. And our recommendation for strict criteria (including independent peer-evaluated research) to ensure the study's objectivity was disregarded by the Representative.

One can only speculate on that side's opposition to the study. Are they afraid that the ACO model will com in second to the Minnesota Health Plan in cost savings?


FALL 2015

35th COACT Farm Picnic celebrates family farms and small businesses as pillars of our economy

Small Business Minnesota confirms COACT’s stand for health care reform

Audrey Britton at 35th Farm Picnic August 16 2015

At the 35th Farm Picnic on August 16 in Pierz, Audrey Britton, chair of Small Business Minnesota, told the audience of 105 guests what COACT has been hearing for years from Central Minnesota business owners on main street: paying HMOs for medical care is not cost effective, public accountability is needed for tax dollars going to HMO contractors, and high deductible policies are unaffordable. Business owners are cost-efficient managers, so they expect the same from the HMOs, she said.

Small businesses and farms are not represented by the large corporations

Thom Petersen, Minnesota Farmers Union government relations director, and Small Business Minnesota’s Audrey Britton represented the family farm and small business pillars of our rural economy for cost-efficient, affordable, and publicly accountable health care delivery for all Minnesotans.

Ms. Britton said that “rather than working with small businesses and family farms for affordable health care for all, our voice has been hijacked by the National Federation of Businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S health insurance industry (the world’s most profitable), which lobby for Wall Street, not Main Street.”

Audrey Britton and Thom Peterson


Feedlot industry retaliates against Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens Board for its environmental review of mega-dairy

COACT opposes legislation to silence citizens’ decision-making voice of 48 years

Following the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens Board ordering an environmental review for the largest corporate dairy expansion in state history, the feedlot industry and their legislative allies retaliated with legislation in the 2015 session to first silence the Board and then eliminate it.

The industry’s retaliation was triggered in August 2014 by the Citizens Board’s ordering a rigorous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to permitting expansion of the state’s largest dairy corporation, Riverview LLP, in Stevens County, western Minnesota.

During its 48 years the Board has rarely ordered an EIS, but in this case the need was overwhelming.

  COACT VP Charlie Quick and Senator John Marty at MPCA 

COACT Vice President Charlie Quick (far right) and other Members rally with Senator John Marty (center) at the MPCA June 23 to save the Citizens Board.


Testimony from citizens and COACT convinced the Board to require the EIS

Testimony from citizens and COACT convinced the Board to require the EIS in order to see how Riverview’s proposed 9200-cow expansion, largest so far, could potentially damage the area’s environment and economy.

Riverview already owns six operations averaging 4,000 cows each, with the largest over 6,000, for a total of 27,000 cows concentrated in one area. Adding 9,200 more would produce manure waste beyond the tolerance of the county’s water supply and acreage.

Air and water pollution would risk public health, according to COACT’s testimony. Furthermore, COACT asked if the public will be responsible for the ensuing pollution costs of expansion, since Riverview is a Limited Liability Partnership


COACT commends MPCA Citizens Board after fighting against the legislation that silenced it

Urges Governor to work for the Board’s restoration

The Citizens Board of the Minnesota Control Agency (MPCA) may be down, but not out. Although legislation by big ag, big mining, and their legislative allies may have knocked it down, it can come back, according to COACT testimony at the Board's final hearing at MPCS June 23.

Former Governor Wendell Anderson thanks COACT farm leader Stephanie Henriksen

At the hearing, former Governor Wendell Anderson thanks COACT farm leader Stephanie Henriksen for fighting for the Citizens Board, which Governor Mark Dayton promised after the contentious Special Session to work to restore.

Having fought the good fight for family farms and the environment, Stephanie died on December 15, 2015. She is greatly missed by COACT, Minnesota Farmers Union, and Land Stewardship Project whose members have been inspired by her passion for protecting family farms from factory farms and industrial agriculture.

Following a rally at the Governor’s Mansion May 21, Gov. Dayton vetoed elimination of the Citizens Board on May 23. He then used his executive power to make it an advisory committee to the MPCA Commissioner until its EIS authority can be re-legislated.


First step to federal waiver for MN Health Plan

Marty-Laine legislative plan will give us “state’s right” to single payer

The first step was taken this session for Minnesota to get the federal waiver, under Obamacare, which will allow the state to enact the single-payer Minnesota Health Plan (MHP).

For any proposal to be considered for the waiver, Senator John Marty and Representative Carolyn Laine, chief authors of the MHP, introduced legislation in the 2015 session setting the principles that all state health program proposals must meet. They include affordability for all, cost savings, provider choice, comprehensive care, and public accountability. This is step 1 in their overall legislative plan for Minnesota to get the waiver in for which COACT is working to get public support.

  Rep. John Lesch, COACT VP Charlie Quick, and Executive Director Don Pylkkanen 

Representative John Lesch (center), confers with COACT Vice President Charlie Quick (left) and Executive Director Don Pylkkanen January 13 on the Marty-Laine waiver legislative plan following the December 15 Civil Law Committee hearing on HMOs’ hidden spending practices.



Marty-Laine waiver legislative plan

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows states to begin applying for a State Innovation Waiver (section 1332) in 2017 to create their own health care programs. Basically, the state program must cover as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act and cannot add to the federal deficit. Being single-payer, the Minnesota Health Plan is far superior in meeting these basics.

Here's how the Marty-Laine plan will get us to the waiver:

1. Senator Marty and Representative Laine introduced a health study bill that

a. sets the principles (affordability for all, cost savings, choice of providers, comprehensive care, no deductibles, etc.) that all proposals must meet;

b. authorizes the Commissioner of Management and Budget to contract with the University of Minnesota to study the proposals that are offered

c. invites proposals to be submitted to the legislature.

2. Passage of the study legislation.

3. Passage of enabling legislation that directs the Minnesota Department of Human Services to apply to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the State Innovation Waiver to allow the state to enact the selected plan that best meets the principles.

Legislators of both parties are dismayed that the HMOs are not reporting basic financial data on the programs they run, amounting to 20% of the general fund budget. This makes single-payer long overdue.  

FALL 2014

Doctor, farmer, candidate voice strate's right to single-payer health care and standing up to corporate power at COACT's 34th Farm Picnic

  Dr. Laurel Gamm Co-Chair, MN Physicians for a Nat'l Health Program

Dr. Laurel Gamm, MD, Co-Chair, MN Physicians for a Nat'l Health Program

Paul Sobocinski farmer and organizer Land Stewardship Project

Paul Sobocinski, family farmer and organizer, Land Stewardship Project.

Al Doty, House Dist 9B Candidate, former State Rep

Al Doty, House Dist. 9B Candidate, former State Rep., and former Staff for Congressman Nolan



“As a family physician, my heart breaks whenever an HMO or insurance company tells me I can’t give medically necessary care to a patient because they lack coverage,” Dr. Laurel Gamm, MD, Co-Chair of Physicians for a National Health Program Minnesota (PNHP-MN) told an audience of 103 people at COACT’s 34th Farm Picnic, August 17, in the central Minnesota farm community of Pierz.

Standing up to corporate power in our lives, whether it’s HMOs profiteer-ing on our health care or factory agriculture degrading the land and rural economy, was addressed by Paul Sobocinski, family farmer and organizer for the Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

“Minnesota’s Corporate Farm Law mandates the protection of family farms and rural society which are being threatened by expanding multi-thousand cow factory dairies,” he said.

Al Doty, House District 9 B Candidate and long-time champion for family farmers and single-payer, pledged that, as their state representative, he will support their positions on these issues and Minnesota’s right to enact a single-payer health program. He will work for the Minnesota Health Plan to achieve it, he promised, which won COACT’s enthusiastic endorsement.