Towards a Safer and More Progressive Future with Rep. Kristin Bahner
Meet Representative Kristen Bahner, who is running for re-election in 2020 to the Minnesota House of Representatives, District 34 B, which serves the communities of Maple Grove and Osseo. Bahner talks about the most important thing that she has learned during her term in office, her plans for healthcare for Minnesotans, and the types of natural health care that should be covered by health insurance.
Shownotes:[00:00:21.450] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Good morning and welcome to Green Tea Conversations, the radio show that delves into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine to bring you the local experts who share their progressive ideas and the latest information and insights needed so you can lead your best life. I'm your host Candi Broeffle, publisher of the Twin Cities edition of Natural Awakenings magazine, and I am honored to bring these experts to you. Today in our studio, we have Representative Kristin Bahner, who is running for re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives District 34B, which serves the communities of Maple Grove and Osseo. Welcome to the show, Representative Bahner.
[00:01:01.260] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Thank you, Candi. It's good to see you.
[00:01:03.480] - Candi Broeffle, Host
It is good to be with you today. So, we are coming in and I'm asking some of our candidates to come in so that we can get to meet you and get to know you a little bit better and help people to make decisions on who they're going to vote for this fall. And so, you are running for re-election again in our November elections. And the one thing that I want to know first is what is the most important thing that you have learned in the last two years that you've been in office?
[00:01:37.050] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Relationships, without a doubt. I think a big part of this job, a big part of being a certain leader of serving your community, is working through relationships. And that means relationships with folks in your community, having good working relationships with them, as well as folks in the legislature on both sides of the aisle, as a matter of fact. I'm really proud of the fact that all of the bills which I've had as a chief author that have passed through have had Senate authors who are on the other side of the aisle. And I do think that our process in the legislature, while it's very deliberative, it's also designed in such a way that if we work together, we can often, despite our differences, we can challenge each other, we can find ways to make legislation better and help serve our communities better. So, I truly believe that forming the basis of all those relationships and having that ability goes a long way in serving our constituents.
[00:02:46.140] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Very nice. So, in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, with people losing their employer-provided health care and others having difficulty paying for their premiums, what ideas do you have to assure that Minnesotans are afforded health care for all of our citizens?
[00:03:05.440] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
I think that's a really excellent question, and I think so often when I talk to people in my community, I hear folks, like our seniors saying that they are worried about being able to pay for their medicine. And frankly, it breaks my heart to think that I'm looking at someone on the other side of the door who could, for all practical purposes, be my grandmother, who's struggling to think about, well, can I afford my medicine or do I have to make difficult tradeoffs, like putting food on the table and paying my bills or spending time with my grandchildren and taking them out for ice cream versus paying for the necessary medications that I really need. And I, I personally think that's unconscionable, that our seniors, who should be thinking about their golden years and taking the grandkids for ice cream, are worried about paying for their drugs. And I am very passionate. Anybody who knows my record about health care and prescription drug reform, I am the daughter of a nurse. I grew up next to a pharmacist, and I have done everything from work in medical records at the University of Minnesota. One time, I work for a company that authorized drugs for a living. I've also been on the IT side of that and worked for pharmacy benefits, managers as well as large health care organizations.
So, you might say I have an interesting perspective in that I've seen all sides of this particular issue. And I do think that it's unfortunate that our health care system is not designed to always give the best possible care. And I'll give an example of that. For example, preventative care. Often when we talk about health care and what we will and will not pay for, we talk about it in terms of saving pennies here and there. But it's a little bit penny-wise, pound foolish in that preventative care, for example, can save a huge amount of money and complications for someone down the line. For example, my sister is a diabetic. If you have good care and management of your disease on the front end, that can avoid a ton of problems on the back end, which are far more expensive to take care of and really diminish the quality of life for patients.
And I think that that's something that we have to take a long, hard look at and how we reform the system to do a better job. I do think that Government can play a role in making sure that our policies work for real people. And so, you'll notice that I have a long list of bills; if you look at my record that address those specific issues, things like removing the gag rule, the gag rule specifically was where pharmacists were not allowed to tell a patient that they could get their prescription for cheaper by buying it off the shelf than their copay. Now, that sounds silly. First of all, why would you not tell a patient when they can save money? But that really adds up in that when you talk about seniors or working families who are a tight budget. Let's say they get their prescription for $12 off the shelf versus the $20 copay. That's eight dollars. And let's say that's a monthly prescription, eight dollars over the course of a year adds up. And if you have multiple prescriptions, that can be a huge saving. So, folks on those fixed incomes or who are struggling to make ends meet, it makes a huge difference. So, I'm really proud that we were able to pass that. That was, in fact, my very first bill right out of the gate. And I'm proud of that. Bills that do things like ensure that you get the lowest cost at the pharmacy that make provisions for emergency refills, for example, so that patients can get the care that they need, as well as synchronizing your medications every year so that caregivers and folks could sync up their meds to one day a year on a day of their choosing that better serve their budget. And for folks who might have issues with getting transportation, seniors again, those families who might be caring for children that have special needs or disabilities, making life just easier for regular folks. And I do think that all of those efficiencies also have great cost benefits from preventative care to lowering the cost of prescription drugs that can really help our families at the end of the day.
[00:07:55.900] - Candi Broeffle, Host
So, you bring up a good point and with preventative care and also with natural health care. So, my next question is, in your opinion, what types of natural health care should be covered by your health insurance?
[00:08:09.990] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Yeah, and I know this has been a hot debate and I do think that there are some really great alternative methods that can be really, really useful, and have shown themselves to be very effective. So, I certainly think that when we talk about medicine, it shouldn't just be about prescription drugs from (8:30) need a more holistic approach, obviously. And for example, in various patent applications, there's been a lot of conversation about things like acupuncture, for example, which is a more holistic approach, and particularly in lieu of prescription drugs when people are managing pain. So, I think there are really practical ways to look at this and see where there are opportunities for us to not only save money but to give better outcomes for our patients. And I think that's a really practical concern. And so, I would like to see us do more at taking a critical look at where we could make those adjustments to give better holistic health care.
[00:09:16.500] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Great. So, in your opinion, what is the most important education issue we are facing today?
[00:09:25.840] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Well, there are many. The list is long. I think, one, that funding is a huge issue. I know for about 15 years we did not do a very good job of making sure that we were adequately funding what's necessary for our teachers, for our schools, one, for paying for things like buildings and books, two, retaining good teachers, for example, making sure that we're taking care of our students who are in special education, for example, is another area, early childhood education. One of the really intriguing things, for example, and one of the things I feel passionately about is I'm on the early childhood committee. And as part of my work there, I sponsor programs and things like home visiting that get kids off to a good start. And what we know is that brain development in those early ages is off the charts. There are millions and millions of little synapses developing in their little brains, particularly from zero to three. And then even as zero to five, where we have incredible opportunities to get these kids off to a good start, wouldn't it be incredible if we could close the opportunity gap before there was actually a gap? And I think there's a tremendous possibility to do those kinds of things with programs like home visiting, with pre-K education and do that.
And I think there's a lot of debate about whether that should be public, private, charters. Now I know there are some charter schools that have done great work in trying to find great methods or specializing in particular areas. But I do think funding public education is really critical. And the reason I say that is that having a good public education system is really fundamental to our democracy. So, making sure that we are able to have good informed and educated citizens is really, really important.
[00:11:33.130] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Well, we need to go into a break here in just a minute. But for people who want to learn more about the issues that are important to Representative Bahner, visit BahnerforHouse.com and that's B-a-h-n-e-r-forHouse.com. To read the online edition of Natural Awakenings magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find a podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com, on Apple and Google Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota and we will be right back.
[00:12:42.090] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations, where we delve into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine and talk to the professionals who share their expertise on natural health with you. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle. And today we are talking with Representative Kristin Bahner, who is running for re-election for Minnesota House of Representatives District 34B, which serves the communities of Maple Grove and Osseo. Thank you so much for being with us today. So, just before the break, you were starting to tell us about in particular, we were discussing early education and home visits and head start, different programs that have more early education. And when we come back, I wanted to just ask you to expand on that a little bit.
[00:13:29.480] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Yeah. And I think this is where we have really incredible opportunities because we know that those little minds are developing at an incredible rate, particularly in those early years. So, having programs like home, visiting pre-K programs, etc, to sort of expand and sort of literally capture those little diamonds in the rough that we have in each and every one of our kiddos is really incredible. And there's really substantial evidence. There's a study done and I believe in Pursey study that followed for individual children to get them off to a good start and sort of close those opportunity gaps before they started and looked at what happened over-time when we got those kids off to a good start. And what we found is that we had lower rates of incarceration which and we had increased graduation rates, we had higher rates of employment, we had higher rates of economic achievement, and that often what they did is they actually went back to some of those study participants and followed them into a second or third generation.
And what they found is that those benefits actually carry through from one generation to the next. Now, I'd like to think that that's really great because it means that we have better outcomes for our neighbors and for the folks in our community. But the other really interesting thing about that, and this is for my friends on the other side of the aisle who like to talk about dollars and cents, what that also means is that when we're actually getting those better outcomes, it means that we're also saving a lot of money on the other side. So, where do you want to spend it? Do you want to spend money on our kiddos or would you rather spend money on things like incarceration? And I don't know about you, but I like safe communities and I like knowing that everyone in my community has a great opportunity to succeed. So, I think we can do really great things by choosing where we prioritize to spend our money. And I can't think of a better way to do it than our kiddos.
[00:15:33.990] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Yes. So, when we talk with our readers, there're certain things that are really important to our readers to know from our officials. And one of the things is, do you acknowledge that climate change is real and poses an immediate threat to our environment and our health and safety?
[00:15:55.290] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
Absolutely. Without hesitation. I think that the really incredible thing about that and sometimes we don't understand how that applies to everyday life. And so I'll give you an example. So, first of all, we know, particularly in because of warming effect, because of greater density in the air, we know that pollutants can stay around longer. That can mean things like more cases of asthma, particularly for kids in more urban settings. But it also plays out in really important ways in terms of our health and safety in other ways as well. So, for example, we talk about a holistic approach to taking care of our health that means things like putting good food in our bodies. Right, having good, healthy food. But we talk in greater Minnesota, we have farmers and this last decade has been one of the largest for rainfall in recorded Minnesota history.
And that means that it's been harder for our farmers to get the crops in the ground. It's been harder for them to maintain those. They've had much wetter soggier climates so they're not able to harvest as much. And also they're not able to get their crops out of the ground at the end of the season as well. That means it also makes it hard not only to get that good quality, healthy food, it also makes it a lot more expensive, particularly for those young families. And that hits you directly in the pocketbook. So, those kinds of things where somebody says, well, it doesn't matter, actually it does. And it matters to your everyday life in terms of safety. You also have to consider that infrastructure. Many of the roads and bridges in Minnesota were developed many, many years ago, and we've been operating at near flood stage for some of those items. And they were never really designed to do that. So, we have to make sure that that infrastructure is safe as well. So, when we have things like increased rainfall for climate change, it all has a domino effect.
[00:17:54.340] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Great. One last question that I have for you before we let you go is we do have a lot of work to do here in the United States when it comes to addressing our systemic racism. In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed immediately? And what are your initial ideas to do so?
[00:18:16.990] - Kristin Bahner, Guest
In terms of addressing those issues, I think one of the biggest is obviously the opportunity cap, as you know, probably gathered from that or from my previous answers that I'm a really big proponent of education and trying to close those gaps before they start. So, I think education is a really key issue in terms of disparities and then within our communities, I know there's been a lot of conversation, especially recently, about how we make things better for folks. That means in terms of education, it could be retaining more teachers of color, to have those children see what their values and their own reflection in their teachers. Right? To encourage them to do better in school. But it also means taking a hard look at how our systems are designed and the inequities within those systems. And how do we do better for our communities in that sense? So, when we talk about things like police reform and accountability, and I don't think there's anybody that I've talked to who really believes that there isn't a need for some of these measures, including our officers who are in many cases really wonderful, dedicated public servants. And even they agree that there are certain areas where we could improve relations in our communities, have better relationships with our citizens, and quite frankly, they want to have better relationships with our citizens. And so, I think those present really incredible opportunities. And we're in a place now where we're able, if we do more, to listen to those opportunities and listen to those truths and look for better solutions going forward to make sure that everyone in our community can feel safe.
[00:20:09.190] - Candi Broeffle, Host
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today and taking the time out of your very busy schedule here this summer. When we come back, we are going to be visiting with Russ Henry, who is the owner of Minnehaha Falls Landscaping. To read the online version of Natural Awakenings magazine. Visit NaturalTwinCities.Com, you can find a podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com, on Apple and Google Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcast. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota, and we will be right back.