ST. PAUL, Minn. - As Senate Republicans made a last-minute push for the Graham/Cassidy healthcare bill in our nation’s Capitol, there was a much different push underway at Minnesota's Capitol.
"It's a travesty, it's a tragedy," said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.
On Monday, Governor Dayton rallied against the Graham/Cassidy bill, alongside a few of the roughly one million Minnesotans who rely on Medicaid.
For Nikki Villavicencio, who relies on Medicaid as a parent with disabilities, it was a much different news conference than the one she attended in 2011, to see Dayton sign the Medicaid expansion.
"When our governor signed the Medicaid expansion it felt like Minnesota prioritized us,” Villavicencio said. “Now it feels like nobody in the country that has the power to do anything cares about people with disabilities."
At least 158 organizations in Minnesota have come out in opposition to the Graham/Cassidy bill, largely due to a proposed block grant program for states beginning in 2020, that would cap the amount of money the federal government provides.
“States (will have to) decide who doesn't get served, who is going to be eliminated from Medicaid assistance,” Governor Dayton said.
Kate Swenson says the proposed bill is upsetting and causing her to lose sleep. Her six year old son Cooper has non-verbal, severe autism that requires life-long care, which his private insurance only pays 20 percent of.
"My services will be one of the first to go if they do make cuts because I have paid Medicaid,” Swenson said. "Medicaid means that my son can live with me in our home and that means that I can still work."
If that changes due to Medicaid cuts, she says caring for Cooper would likely make her more dependent on the government.
"It's just this crazy realization if I want to help Cooper and give him his best life my husband and I would have to quit our jobs and bring our income to zero," Swenson said. “And how is that really helping anybody?”
Minnesota’s democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are both against the healthcare bill.
The Minnesota Republican party supports the bill and sent KARE 11 the following statement:
The people of Minnesota cannot afford the collapsing Obamacare status quo that Washington Democrats are determined to keep in place. With Obamacare's rising premiums, outrageous costs, and limited choices, the Graham-Cassidy health care bill is a much needed solution to our nation’s health care nightmare.
While Democrats think big government should be making your health care decisions, this Republican-led bill gives power back to states to tailor a plan that works for us here in Minnesota.
Senators Klobuchar and Franken should work with Republicans to pass this bill that addresses the needs of Minnesota and families across the country.
-Matthew J. Pagano