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Norm Coleman: Health Care
By Martin Kaste
August 20, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

NORM COLEMAN DOES NOT HAVE A comprehensive plan to change health care in Minnesota; instead he says he'll bring to health care the same philosophy he applies to most other issues:

Coleman: I believe in choice and competition. So if you talk about health care, the main concern for most Minnesotans is, "Can I get my doctor? I want quality service," and that's a changing world. And as I sit here, I don't have all the answers.
One of the health-care questions other candidates have raised this year is what to do with MinnesotaCare - the state-run, subsidized, health-insurance program. The program is safely in the black, financially, and some Democrats say it's time to let more Minnesotans join, including low-income people who don't have dependent children. Coleman says he hasn't made up his mind on where he'd take the program.
Coleman: I believe - and I hesitate, because I want to be careful about spending - but here's what you can do: We should ... I believe in the safety net, and what MinnesotaCare is, that it provides that safety net. But my concern about MinnesotaCare is that a tax supports it. That 1.5 percent tax. One of the things I would look at with some of the money from that tobacco settlement is that some of that money should go to replace that tax, and then perhaps go to expand MinnesotaCare. But I'm not going to call for any expansion without saying, "Here's how I'm going to pay for it."
Coleman and most of his DFL rivals do part ways on the most controversial of perennial health-care issues: abortion. He calls himself "pro-life" - he never could have won the Republican endorsement without it - while four out of the five DFLers say they'll defend legalized abortion. If Coleman is elected, there's little he can do to ban abortion outright, since the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively taken the issue out of state's hands. But Tim Stanley, co-director of the Minnesota affiliate of the National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League, says Coleman could still make a difference:
Stanley: Minnesota placed second in the number of anti-choice pieces of legislation introduced, and the governor has veto power over any anti-choice legislation. So we're talking about mandatory waiting periods, biased counseling laws, and also the governor has veto power over the so-called partial abortion ban.
Legislation banning that controversial late-term abortion procedure is likely to come up again next year; a majority coalition of Republicans and DFLers approved the ban in the House this spring, but the Senate blocked it. Governor Carlson, who favors legalized abortion, has also stood in the way of the ban, but a Governor Coleman would likely sign it. Coleman says banning the procedure is what most Minnesotans want.
Coleman: What the Democrats want to do is paint me on the far right. I don't think changing the law on partial birth abortion is that radical. I think the state could stand a change on that. It should be having partial birth - I think the Democrats are saying that!
The quality of care offered by HMOs is also likely to come up during the next administration. There are those at the Capitol who say it may soon be time to let for-profit companies into Minnesota's unusual non-profit health care market. Coleman says he hasn't decided whether he'd want to preserve the non-profit requirement, but here again, he applies his over-arching philosophy: if he thinks it would increase competition in the marketplace, he says he'll consider it.