Hagedorn attacks ACA, Walz at Mankato health care forum

By Trey Mewes, Mankato Free Press - MANKATO — Painting himself as the congressional candidate to introduce health care reform, Republican Jim Hagedorn outlined ways he would significantly change or repeal the Affordable Care Act during a town hall on health care Wednesday night in Mankato.

That is, if he beats U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District seat.

Hagedorn went on the attack for part of the meeting, where he blamed Walz and the lawmakers who supported the ACA for insurance costs increasing in some parts of Minnesota. He said he was disappointed Walz hadn't held town hall meetings on the ACA since 2009, and called out Walz and other lawmakers for exempting themselves from using insurance under the ACA.

Earlier this month, several insurers released proposed 2007 individual and small group health insurance rates, which increased between 36 and 66 percent from this year. About 5 percent of Minnesotans will be affected by the increases, while many who receive insurance through their employers, Medicaid or other programs will see little to no change.

Hagedorn outlined a series of proposals to combat rising prices, including allowing interstate health insurance competition, expanded Health Savings Accounts to encourage medical care shopping and healthy living, more transparency from hospitals and clinics on the cost of basic procedures, and separate insurance pools for people with pre-existing and expensive medical conditions to drive down costs for others.

He also supports continuing to let children stay on their parents' insurance through age 26 and wants to mandate pharmaceutical companies to charge U.S. residents the lowest drug prices paid by other countries.

Many of the 30 or so people who attended the forum supported Hagedorn's plan. Yet not everyone agreed with his proposals.

Deb Hogenson, a former chair of the Nobles County DFL party, told Hagedorn how she and her husband, Doug Bauman, recently were diagnosed with serious illnesses which forced them to retire. Hogenson said it would have been impossible to pay for their medical bills without the ACA.

"Without insurance, we probably would have faced financial ruin, and I don't know if we would have, under the old system, we would have been able to keep our insurance," she said.

Terry Morrow, campaign manager for Walz, said Hagedorn insists on having U.S. residents face hardships under previous insurance policies, where "insurance companies would deny health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, when young people were kicked off their parents’ plans, and when women were treated unequally and were often charged more than men."

"Tim Walz has long said we need to work together to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act," Morrow said in a statement. "That's why he has worked with Minnesota small businesses on bipartisan legislation to address their concerns and will continue fighting for common-sense changes."

Hagedorn insists Republicans need to make major changes to the ACA and other government policie.

"If we don't win this election and go to Washington, St. Paul and other places across the country and make big, bold change, I believe we're going to lose the country the way our forefathers put it together," Hagedorn said.