Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

Back to profile

Las Vegas Tragedy, Hurricane Relief, Protecting Health Care, and Early Voting

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

With the temperature dropping and leaves changing color, fall is upon us. I hope those of you with students in your family had a smooth transition back to school. Here is an update from the State Capitol.

Senseless Tragedy in Las Vegas, Nevada

Monday morning Minnesotans woke up to the news of yet another mass shooting in America. This one at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. By 8 p.m. Monday night, news reports had the death toll at 59 and were reporting over 527 people injured. The count may continue to rise. Over the next few days we will hear the stories of grieving loved ones, brave first responders and miracles of survival. Our hearts are with them all.

At times like these it is easy to dwell in the darkness, but I found a ray of hope in hearing that there were hundreds of people who stood hours in line to give blood. Sometimes it takes a horrible tragedy to bring out our better angels. We may never know what led to this senseless act of gun violence but we do know that thoughts and prayers are not enough to stop the next one.

I defy those who say that now is not the time to talk politics or policy: now is exactly the time. I have always supported, and will continue to support, background checks for ALL gun purchases and other sensible gun violence prevention policies. I am hoping my legislative colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, will join me in pushing for measures that will make our schools, streets and workplaces safer. Tighter firearms policies may not have stopped this most recent mass shooting but it very well could stop the next one.

Hurricane Relief: Help Needed

Since my last update, in which I discussed the damage Hurricane Harvey did to the Houston area, more storms have emerged destroying entire islands, homes, families, and lives. We’ve witnessed the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Maria upon Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively. Along with this destruction comes the dire need for assistance, which those in Puerto Rico especially are still waiting for.

It’s up to all of us to again step up and help those on the island by giving generously. Water, medicine, food, baby formula, hygiene products and other humanitarian aid are all desperately needed to assist these folks who are already facing an enormous path forward to rebuild. If you’re able, please consider making a contribution to an organization such as El Fondo Boricua (a fund organized by the St. Paul Foundation), UNICEF,the Hispanic Federation, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (which also has resources on how to volunteer in relief efforts), and

the One America Appeal. Minnesotans can also make a donation directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico by

Working to Protect Health Care for Working Minnesotans

When the legislative session started in January, many of us got to work right away on getting private health insurance premiums under control. One bipartisan step taken was to provide a direct rebate for those Minnesotans who buy their insurance on the private market. Another one was substantially more controversial, which I did not support, that gave a half-billion dollar subsidy to insurance companies in hopes premiums would decrease, known as “reinsurance.” This proposal required approval from the federal government, and it took until just a couple of weeks ago to receive an indication from the Trump administration if this would be approved.

Unfortunately, along with the approval of the reinsurance program, the federal government plans to reduce federal funding available for MinnesotaCare, which for over 25 years has provided quality health insurance to the working poor. It’s unconscionable that handouts to insurance companies would be put ahead of ensuring small business owners, young adults, farmers and single parents have access to quality coverage.

Last week, many of my DFL colleagues and I sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price (who has since stepped down) calling on him to reverse his department’s decision to cut health care funding for the working poor in order to fund insurance companies. You can see the letter here.

Final health insurance rates for the individual market were also released yesterday for 2018. Rates remain too high, especially with a 25% premium discount expiring at the end of the year for those whose income is too high for federal tax credits. Access to carriers also remains limited. In fact, in five greater Minnesota counties, people have access to just one insurer. The Department of Commerce has detailed information about the rates here.

Open enrollment runs from November 1 through January 14th. When comparing and selecting a plan, you’re encouraged to shop on the MNsure exchange to take advantage of potentially significant tax credit savings.

Instead of limiting access to affordable health care, we should be working to expand it. I support an option whereby Minnesotans could see lower insurance premiums by “buying-in” to MinnesotaCare. In addition to taking advantage of cheaper premiums, MinnesotaCare also has an excellent network of providers, which is especially helpful for families in rural areas. Policy holders would pay their own premium, and other than small startup costs, the plan would require no ongoing support from taxpayers. I hope we can have a robust discussion about this proposal next session because in the end, it’s our job to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.

Troubling developments concerning health care continue to emerge from Washington, D.C. In addition to questions about the future of the Affordable Care Act, last Friday Congress let a critical deadline pass to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Across the nation, nine million children from lower income families which don’t qualify for Medicaid are able to access health care through this program. Here in Minnesota, safety net clinics and services for pregnant women could be put in jeopardy. It’s time for Congress to fulfill its critical responsibility and renew CHIP immediately.

Early Voting Available

Under the leadership of my predecessor in the House and now Secretary of State Steve Simon, in 2014 the Legislature gave Minnesotans the ability to vote early, in person, without an excuse. For this year’s municipal and school district elections, early voting is now available. Residents of Hopkins and St. Louis Park can vote in each community’s respective city hall (1010 1st St. S. in Hopkins and 5005 Minnetonka Blvd. in St. Louis Park) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More information, including what is on the ballot, is available from Secretary Simon’s office here.

As always, I encourage you to stay in touch with me about your viewpoints, ideas, and input. It’s an honor to be your State Representative.