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State officials hold town hall meeting to discuss new rural health care initiatives

Governor’s budget includes health care, mental health proposals that will benefit rural Minnesotans

2/20/2019 10:00:00 AM

Contact:
For media inquiries only
Sarah Berg
Minnesota Department of Human Services Communications
651-431-4901
Sarah.Berg@state.mn.us 
 
Margaret Hart
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Communications
651-201-6131
Margaret.Hart@state.mn.us  
 
Proposals from Governor Tim Walz to create broader access to health care coverage and increase funding for additional mental health resources for rural Minnesota were the focus of a meeting in Cloquet today. Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey and Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen were joined by representatives from the Minnesota Farmers Union and residents of Carlton County and surrounding areas in a town hall meeting to discuss key health care initiatives in the governor’s newly released budget. 
 
The Walz-Flanagan ONECare MN proposal offers a multipronged, measured approach to improve the health care experience for all Minnesotans. 
 
“Every Minnesotan should be able to access care without worrying about going bankrupt,” Commissioner Lourey said. “Lack of comprehensive coverage, rising drug prices and limited access to dental care are forcing many Minnesotans to make impossible decisions between receiving care and paying the bills. ONECare MN helps to address many of the immediate health care challenges facing Minnesotans across our state.”
 
The ONECare package creates a statewide comprehensive health insurance option for Minnesotans with a broad provider network and benefit set similar to the MinnesotaCare program, including dental and vision benefits and behavioral health services. It also creates options in any region of the state where the individual market fails to provide coverage choices. 
 
The proposal aligns prescription drug benefits for all state health coverage programs and buy-in products to better leverage the state’s purchasing power and bring down prescription drug costs, increase transparency and ensure access to comprehensive drug coverage statewide. This will help people access needed medications with more consistent choices and fewer disruptions and simplify the process for providers. 
 
Additionally, the ONECare MN package creates a simpler and more equitable model for purchasing dental benefits to help dentists serve all patients in their community, improving dental access and experiences. 
 
The ONECare MN proposal is welcome news for farmers said Bryan Klabunde, Minnesota Farmers Union vice president.
 
 “Minnesota family farmers have been dealing with low farm income for the past several years. High health care costs are an added burden to many of them. Implementing a ONECare MN buy-in option would allow more of them to access the care they need at a more affordable price,” Klabunde said.
 
The Walz-Flanagan budget also includes mental health initiatives for rural residents.  
 
“Governor Walz’s budget addresses two issues that are critical to the health and well-being of Minnesota farmers and rural communities – affordable health care and access to mental health resources,” said Commissioner Petersen. “The governor’s budget will enable the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to hire more Farm Advocates who provide direct assistance to distressed farm families and it provides funding for continuation of our phone hotline – the Farm and Rural Helpline.”
 
The Farm and Rural Helpline offers free and confidential services 24/7 for anyone struggling with financial problems, stress, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts by calling 1-833-600-2670.
 
More information on the Budget for One Minnesota is available in fact sheets on the governor’s office website.
 
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