Minnesota COACT

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COACT’s all-seasons organizing for social justice.


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 a June rally for the Minnesota Health

Plan at a St. Paul premier of SiCKO, the acclaimed documentary on

the nation’s failed health insurance system.


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 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 singlepayer
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 COACTendorsed
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 for the 2017 session.

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      Mary Nell Preisler was instrumental in establishing the Farmer
Famer-Lender Mediation Program at COACT Farm Picnic. .    -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

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
COACT farmer Rod Boser, Pierz (right) and Unity Bank of the business owners are from family farms, farm part-time, and/or have Ag Credit Manager Mike Solinger discuss farmers’ need family members farming. They know that the volatile farm economy is of the Mediation Program in an uncertain farm economy.

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 HMOACO legislators. Thus, the recommendation of a legislated task force calling for a study was not acted on.  Despite the setback, politcal 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 proposesconcentrating HMO power into state-wide Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Both proposals must first be studied to determine whichone 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.  

Among the doctores 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 by 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 side's handy excuse that an objective study couldn't be done.  And our recommmendation 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 come in second to the Minnesota Health Plan is cost savings?

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


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

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 SBM’s Audrey Britton represented the family farm and small business pillars of our economy for cost-efficient, affordable, and publicly accountable health care delivery for all Minnesotans.

Rather than working with small businesses and family farms for affordable, universal health care, their 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.

St. Cloud Times

It's time for universal health care

By Jeff Kunstleben and Don Pylkkanen, Minnesota COACT4:01 p.m. CDT October 31, 2015

Small Business Minnesota and Minnesota Farmers Union confirmed what COACT had been hearing from business owners and family farmers for years: Unaffordable medical coverage is their No. 1 problem.

·         Small businesses and farms had already been paying $10,000 and more annually for deductible policies

·         Look to the cost-efficient and universally affordable systems of other industrialized countries



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 this 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 Vice President (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 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 in 2017

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 MPCA June 23.

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 in the 2017 legislative session.



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 in the 2017


Legislation disregards Senator Gordon Rosenmeier's environmental legacy

By Sister Ruth Lentner, COACT, and Beth Passi, Brainerd Lakes League of Women Voters, on Apr 27, 2015 




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 2017 for which COACT is working to get public support.

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 apply 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:

2015: Senator Marty and Representative Laine introduced a health study bill that

1.    sets the principles (affordability for all, cost savings, choice of providers,

comprehensive care, etc.) that all proposals must meet;

2.    authorizes the Commissioner of Management and Budget to contract with

the University of Minnesota to study the proposals that are offered;

3.    invites proposals to be submitted to the legislature by Jan. 15, 2016.

2016: passage of the study legislation.

2017: 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 state’s right to single-payer health care and standing up to corporate power at COACT’s 34th Farm Picnic

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

Paul Sobocinski, family farmer and  organizer,  Land Stewardship Project

Al Doty, House Dist. 9B Candidate, former 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 profiteering 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.