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DFLers take Hagedorn to task on health care record

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Rep. Tina Leibling, center, and members of the Rochester community held a news conference Tuesday morning calling on Rep. Jim Hagedorn to keep his "hands off our health care."
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Members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took the congressional recess as an opportunity to take Rep. Jim Hagedorn to task on what they characterize as his "abysmal" record on health care.

"Honestly, if Jim Hagedorn did not touch the issue of health care again, that would be a benefit to our state," said said Brian Evans, communications director for the MN DFL, "because that would mean one less republican congressman was trying to make prescription drug prices more expensive, one less congressmen was trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act and one less republican congressman was going after folks with pre-existing conditions." 

More than a dozen people gathered at the DFL headquarters in Rochester to speak out against Hagedorn's voting record. Some who spoke recalled now-Gov. Tim Walz' legacy as a representative. Rep. Tina Liebling recalled Walz as a partner who helped state representatives improve health care in Minnesota on a federal level.

"It is time to put the needs of our people and Jim Hagedorn's constituents above the needs of private insurance companies," said Dr. Aleta Borrud, a Land Stewardship Project board member. 

"Gov. Walz understood this. He fought so hard to defend the ACA at a time when it was not a popular thing to do, and he and the Minnesota DFL House, lead by Rep. Liebling, proposed a real solution, a public option."

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Hagedorn, Liebling said, has an "abysmal record of not helping Minnesotans improve health care in this state."

"We all know the Hippocratic oath, the oath that doctor's take, says first do no harm," she said. "Well this should also be congressman Hagedorn's oath. He should first do no harm. But he is not, he is doing a lot of harm. He is doing harm by constantly trying to undermine the health care that Minnesotans have now instead of trying to push forward to make things better."

Breast-cancer survivor Diane Hanson shared her concerns about what would happen to people if protections for pre-existing conditions were repealed and the state's high-risk pool were to return.

"I wish he would have seen the enormous value in brining down drug costs and making sure people have insurance," Hanson said. "I want my congressional representative to prioritize constituents' well-being over politics. We don't have that right now with Rep. Hagedorn. He has not been willing to compromise. Not to help people find and afford health insurance. Not to lower prescription drug prices and not to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions can continue to buy comprehensive health insurance."

The news conference came a day after Hagedorn and U.S. House Republican Whip Steve Scalise visited Mayo Clinic Hospital.

"My responsibility is to defend the world’s highest quality medical care and champion free-market solutions of competition and cost-transparency to ensure timely, quality medical care, drive down the cost of health care delivery and protect those with pre-existing and expensive medical needs," Hagedorn said in a news release following the visit. "The socialist government-reimbursement notions currently proposed in Congress, for example single-payer and Medicare for All, will under-reimburse our doctors and hospitals, degrade the quality of medicine and destroy southern Minnesota’s economy."

Hagedorn was not available for comment Tuesday. He said in a statement that one of his priorities in Congress is to "help sustain world class medical care and strong economic growth, not only in Olmsted County, but also associated with southern Minnesota’s fine rural hospitals."

"To this end, I will continue to support solutions to encourage transparency and spur competition to ensure timely, quality medical care and help drive down the cost of health care and protect those with expensive, pre-existing medical needs," he said in a statement.

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State DFL members were expected to take the message to Winona Tuesday afternoon and to Mankato on Wednesday.

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