Murphy seeks to shake up health care as governor

DFL governor candidate Erin Murphy said Tuesday that the state needs to flex more muscle to guarantee health coverage and bargain for cheaper prescription drug prices.

Murphy’s “Pathway to Single Payer” plan would steer the state toward health coverage where people could eventually bypass insurance companies. No state has gone as far as Murphy is proposing.

“It is time for us to be talking about solutions that meet the scale of the problems that Minnesotans are facing when it comes to the costs of health care,” Murphy said.

Even Murphy says the transition to guaranteed coverage would be gradual. The registered nurse said she would start by letting people buy into the publicly subsidized MinnesotaCare  program — a proposal similar to one that never gained traction under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton — and having the state buy medicine directly from drug companies or import it from Canada.

“We will take those steps in the next four and eight years to make sure that we are making real progress for people, so they have health care they can count on,” Murphy said at a news conference. “It’s important that we talk about it as a clear pathway. I don’t want anybody to think we’re going to make this happen in the very first year.

As governor, Murphy would undoubtedly face resistance in making the changes happen, perhaps opposite a Republican-led Legislature if Democrats can’t flip control in November.

The plan depends on the Legislature reinstating a 2 percent tax on medical procedures that is due to expire next year.

Murphy said too many Minnesotans are still uninsured or have coverage that doesn’t take care of their medical needs. She was joined by James Holt, the father of a diabetic son who died at age 26 after he couldn’t afford insulin. He said his son, Alec Smith, was rationing the medicine to keep his costs down.

“Insulin is like oxygen. A diabetic cannot live without insulin just like you cannot live without oxygen,” Holt said.

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