In the Spotlight

News & Features
Mark Dayton: Health Care
By Karen Boothe
August 20, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

MINNESOTA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE MARK DAYTON, like many politicians across the country, is calling for broader consumer protections for patients fed up with the limits imposed by health maintenance organizations.

Dayton: The state of Minnesota and Department of Health should be on the side of the consumers of Minnesota, the patients of Minnesota, and stand up on their behalf to these big providers and say, "We have these expectations, and you've got to meet them."
Dayton says he wants to give Minnesotans the right to sue their HMOs for malpractice. Under current Minnesota law, patients do not have the right to sue.
Dayton: Right now, if you are denied what you believe is proper care by your HMO or other health care provider, if you want to seek a remedy to that, or even change the decision denying care, you have to embark on a bureaucratic maze that makes even the federal government look efficient and timely.
Critics of Dayton's proposal say Minnesota already has some of the nation's strongest patient-protection laws in the country, and patients can sue if their HMOs violate the terms of a plan's contract. Dayton says he also wants to set up a 24-hour state hotline and independent panel to rule on complaints, and he supports a patient's right to choose a doctor. He's proposing what he calls "any willing provider" legislation.
Dayton: That's what's really indecent about what's happening. You hear from people all over who say, "I'm in a crisis. My kid's sick and in a crisis, and I'm told I can't get the doctor I want to see. I'm told by some faceless bureaucrat, 'No, you can't have it.'"
Critics say such stories are misleading because they are anecdotal and don't reflect the kind of care most HMO patients are recieving. But Dayton says the acid test is public opinion, and right now public opinion is weighing against the system.

Dayton says he also wants to reduce the state's cost for MinnesotaCare - the state's insurance program - by requiring all Minnesota businesses to provide health care for every employee and his or her family. He says full time employees should get full coverage, and benefits for part-time employees should be pro-rated.

Dayton: Businesses might not like it, and there should be exemptions, and exceptions for those that cannot legitimately afford it because of size or lack of profitability. On the other hand, there are a lot of these big retail food chain operations which can absolutely afford to provide health insurance for their employees, and they don't, and as I said, we pick up the costs.
Dayton says he's pitching his policies at no additional cost. He says he'll work within current state spending on health care - he'll just make it more efficient. On the controversial issue of abortion - Dayton favors legal abortion and has no legislative agenda on the issue pending.