Senate District 26 forum: Medicare-for-all, conversion therapy, bonding bill
Senate District 26: GOP Sen. Carla Nelson and DFL challenger Aleta Borrud
GOP Sen. Carla Nelson and DFL challenger Aleta Borrud, candidates for Senate District 26, staked out different positions on a range of issues, including Medicare for all and the proposed banning of conversion therapy, and offered different solutions on challenges the state faces, during a forum Thursday.
The forum was held at the Rochester Public Library and sponsored by the Rochester chapter of the League of Women Voters. Panelists included representatives of the league, the Rochester Post Bulletin and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.
All 134 state House seats and 67 Senate seats up for election on Nov. 3.
Medicare for all
Borrud, a physician, is making her first bid for the state Senate. She said the health insurance system is "clearly broken" and in need of a fix. She said several hundred thousand people in Minnesota have inadequate access to health care. Up to 40 percent of Minnesotans with employer-based insurance can't use it because the co-pays are so high.
The coronavirus pandemic adds yet another challenge. While President Trump wants to overturn the Affordable Care Act, as many as 90,000 Minnesotans who have been infected by the coronavirus could have lingering health issues from it. Without protections in the ACA, they would struggle to get insurance because of their pre-existing conditions.
"If the ACA goes away, as Senator Nelson says she would like to do, people would be ininsurable," Borrud said. "I'm willing to dig in with anybody at the Legislature to make sure that we have affordable options for everyone."
Nelson, a small business owner seeking her fourth Senate term, laid much of the blame for the state's health insurance problems on Obamacare, the shorthand name for the ACA.
"Before Obamacare, we were doing it right," Nelson said.
Under the old system, Minnesotans who were denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions could get it through Minnesota Comprehensive Health Asssessment (MCHA). And premiums were made more affordable with help from state taxpayers.
"When Obamacare came along, it was a national solution for the problems of Texas or Louisiana, but it was foisted on Minnesota and that caused a great problem," Nelson said.
Nelson said she would oppose Medicare for all, because reimbursement rates for hospitals are too low and it would stifle innovation and drive rural clinics out of business.
The banning of conversion therapy
Borrud called the practice of attempting to convert gay people into straight ones "barbaric" and at odds with science and medical knowledge. She supporst a ban on conversion therapy.
"We know that gender is not totally binary, that gender is on a spectrum, and that people have different preferences in terms of their sexuality," Borrud said.
She noted that Utah, a state more conservative than Minnesota, has banned this type of therapy, "so we're actually behind the curve on this one."
But Nelson said that the practice does not belong to the jurisdiction of state government. It more belongs to the state's medical boards to decide such issues.
"Clearly, the science, the culture is evolving on this issue, but I look to our medical boards," Nelson said.
When will a jobs bill or bonding bill pass?
Minnesota lawmakers were unable to pass a $1.3 billion bonding bill during their last special session. Borrund said it would be an important stimulus to "our economy right now." But it's been held hostage by Republicans determined to force DFL Gov. Tim Walz to give up the emergency power he's used to navigate the state through the pandemic.
"Republican leadership stalled (the bill)," Borrud said. "(They want) Gov. Walz to give up emergency powers when 49 other governors in this country have those same emergency powers. We have to put aside that kind of fight and think about the greater good."
Nelson, a member of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, predicted "good news" that an agreement on a bonding bill was near at hand.
Nelson said she has voted for every bonding bill during her tenure in the Senate and will continue to do, because "bonding bills are jobs bills."
"I'm hopeful that we will see something soon," Nelson said. "The Senate has stood tall and strong for a bonding bill this year every time."