MNAAP Reminds Gubernatorial Candidates to Put Kids First


Chapter leaders recently posted three questions to the two leading candidates for governor. Below is the response to the first question from Jeff Johnson, the Republican nominee. Governor Mark Dayton’s campaign has declined to participate in this and other candidate questionnaires this year, and instead suggests that the Governor’s track record speak for itself.

MNAAP: Children make up 23 percent of our state’s population. What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing Minnesota’s children today, and, if elected, how would you address it?

Johnson: Minnesota’s lower income children are not being given the education they need and deserve to climb the income and social ladders — in fact, Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. As governor I am committed to devoting resources — and more importantly instituting reforms — that will finally close this gap and open up opportunities for Minnesota’s disadvantaged children.

It is neither economically nor morally sustainable to have “two Minnesotas” — one in which middle class kids grow up in stable, economically and educationally privileged homes, and another in which poorer kids grow up in broken homes, go to substandard schools, and see little hope for the future.

Government action is not the only solution, but I am committed to doing what can be done in as effective a way as possible.

MNAAP: The state’s overall health ranking for children has slid from 7th to 17th in recent years. Which public health priorities do you believe need more attention to improve the health and safety of children?

Johnson: One of the largest factors driving Minnesota’s children’s health ranking lower is the number of children living in poverty — which increased from under 12 percent to over 15 percent.This indicates that one of the most important things we can do to improve kids’ health and access to health care is to improve the overall economy and job climate. When parents are doing better, their kids likely will too. It is not surprising that a 25 percent increase in the rate of kids living in poverty would have adverse effects on children’s well being.

Children who grow up in stable and prosperous homes are much more likely to be emotionally and physically healthy, complete school, and succeed in life. I want all Minnesota kids to not just survive, but to thrive now and into the future.

Government can also play an important proactive role through education and public health measures. Improved vaccination programs, emphasis on prenatal care, aggressive case management programs, and high quality early childhood programs can each play a role in improving children’s health and welfare.

MNAAP: About 5 percent of Minnesota children still lack health insurance and many more are underinsured. What more do you think can be done in our state to ensure that every child has access to quality, affordable, comprehensive coverage and the medical care they need?

Johnson: Minnesota historically has had some of the lowest rates of uninsured residents in the country. There is a simple reason for that: we have a very broad and generally effective safety net. Even the recent dramatic drop in the number of uninsured Minnesotans is almost entirely due to enrolling uninsured Minnesotans into already available safety net programs.

That safety net exists for a fundamental reason: access to appropriate health care that is the important variable, not so much how it is paid for. Every child, from any income or demographic group, should have access to appropriate health care as and when they need it.

Recent reforms in the health insurance market have increased access for some people but decreased access for many others. The inability of parents to insure infants due to MNsure’s incapacity to address “life events,” such as births, is only one example. Many people have lost access to their preferred physician and specialists, or even the hospitals of their choice.

I am concerned that Minnesota’s historically good health care system is being dragged down to the national average, rather than the reverse.

There is much to do to address these problems, but the very first of those things would be to replace the MNsure board with a group actually familiar with how insurance markets work.

Annual Sponsors

Children's Minnesota
Gillette Children's
Hennepin Healthcare
University of Minnesota Health
Essentia Health
Mayo Clinic
Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities