During a visit to Rochester this afternoon, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton vowed to support some key Mayo Clinic priorities. In particular, he said he would back the state's current newborn screening program.
"We also pledge that we will protect the Mayo Clinic's vital role in the newborn screening. I believe, as I did when I was a U.S. senator supporting stem-cell research, that these issues should be the province of doctors and scientists and medical and scientific evidence, and we should take it out of the realm of politics," Dayton said.
Since 1965, Minnesota has been testing newborns for metabolic disorders by taking a few drops of blood from the newborn's heels within five days of birth. Those drops of blood are put onto a card. Each year, more than 73,000 Minnesota newborns are screened, and approximately 100 are discovered to have a disorder. The state pays Mayo Medical Laboratories more than $6 million to do the screening tests. The dried blood spots are saved and can be used for research to develop new tests for identifying other disorders.
There has been a push at the Legislature led by privacy-rights advocates to require that parents "opt-in" to the screening program instead of having to "opt-out." The concern centers around protecting patients' genetic privacy. But Mayo Clinic has fought those efforts, saying it will destroy their research efforts because far fewer parents will sign up. There is also a fear that the change would mean some newborns' potentially life-threatening disorders would not be discovered.
IP candidate Tom Horner has also said he will support the existing newborn screening program. GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer has not weighed in on the issue during the gubernatorial campaign but in the past has supported efforts at the legislature to require an "opt-in" provision.
Dayton also reiterated his support for early enrollment in the Medicaid expansion made available under the new health care law. He said the state has already budgeted the $188 million needed in order to get $1.4 billion in federal money. That money would mean that most individuals on General Assistance Medical Care and MinnesotaCare could be transferred to Medicaid.
"It's a huge return for the state's investment and vitally important to hospitals here in Rochester and hospitals throughout Minnesota — especially important to hospitals throughout greater Minnesota that are in need of that kind of financial security as well as providing better medical care to 32,000 fellow Minnesotans," he said.
IP candidate Tom Horner also supports the early enrollment. GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer opposes it citing concerns about possible strings attached to the money and the ability of the federal government to pay for it.
Dayton was joined by his running mate, DFL Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth, three area doctors and two Rochester DFL lawmakers — Rep. Tina Liebling and Sen. Ann Lynch.
One area where Dayton and Mayo Clinic do not agree is on the issue of a single-payer health care system. Dayton proposes establishing a task force to look at implementing a single-payer health care system in Minnesota. Mayo Clinic has been opposed to such proposals — most notably during the federal health care reform debate.
Dayton said the taskforce would study the issue to determine the impact and cost of a single-payer system. He said said his primary concern is improving affordability and access to quality health care
"The costs of health insurance as well of the cost of health care with all the deductibles and copays for so many middle income families has become prohibitive and drives down the standard of living and causes enormous anxiety," he said.