Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Bill terminates MA estate claims


Rose Rayburn

Rick Rayburn, Scott Killerud and Julie Gelle enter the Minnesota State Senate building to testify during one of the many committee meetings they attended in their fight for changing the law allowing the Minnesota Department of Health to place estate claims on Medical Assistance recipients between 55 and 65 years of age for premiums and services rendered for general health care paid by the state on their behalf.

Though it was after 11 p.m., Pine County resident Rick Rayburn was well pleased with Monday night's telephone call from Sen. Tony Lourey (D).

"He called when they were still voting!" said Rayburn. "He's saying 48-14, 49-16; one person left to vote, 50-16. He was giving me the play by play. He just couldn't have done it any better than that!"

The vote for the Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bill passed less than one hour before deadline Sunday night. It is now on Gov. Mark Dayton's desk awaiting his signature. Once signed, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) will no longer be empowered to place estate liens on Medical Assistance (MA) clients between 55 and 65 years of age to recover premiums or medical expenses paid by the state on their behalf for general health care.

Pine County residents Rick and Rose Rayburn, Scott and Ellen Killerud, and Robert and Julie Gelle led a long, intense campaign for change upon discovery that they, and over 80,000 others in that age and income bracket, were unknowingly routed to the DHS's MA program through the MNsure website.

For months, they called and wrote their legislators, testified at Senate and House committee meetings. They contacted a wide variety of media sources, friends, relatives, and even posted notices in a local laundromat to inspire people to action. Their goal was to bring about a change in the law.

"We all, as a little group, just morally supported each other," said Julie Gelle. "If we didn't, I don't think we would have kept it together as well as we did. We all carried each other's burdens. We all gave each other strength and words of encouragement."

Even though, at the time of this printing, the governor's final decision is not known, hopes for the bill being signed into law is high.

"The mental anguish is finally gone," said Julie Gelle. "You hear so many stories about our legislators not really backing something we are all passionate about. At first we were all skeptical, but Senator Lourey came through. He is truly compassionate about his constituents. He did get it done. He did see that everybody worked together to get it passed, which we are so thankful for."

Though there is a sense of relief due to the belief Gov. Dayton will sign the bill, the optimism is cautious. The 599-page document, given to legislators three hours before the vote, reflects a half billion dollars covering nine budget areas.

"We can't advertise it until the ink is dry from the governor's pen," said Scott Killerud. "We'll be keeping our fingers crossed."

On the legislative side, work is not done in a vacuum. Gov. Dayton is well aware of the situation.

"I have no indication that there is anything in here that would cause him to veto this whole bill," said Sen. Lourey. "We worked very hard to make sure that this whole package would be acceptable to the governor. This really was, within the Health and Human Services articles, one of the key provisions we knew we needed to keep in (the bill)."

As far as the trio of comrades is concerned, they are simply reeling from the fact their efforts made a difference in the Legislature.

"I'm kind of flabbergasted!" said Rayburn at the final vote in the Senate. "I know don't know how to feel. It's hard to believe. As long as Governor Dayton signs it, I guess my faith in the democratic process is pretty much going to be restored. I will believe that the voice of the people can be heard."

Gov. Dayton has 14 days to sign or veto the bill. When that happens, the Rayburns, Killeruds and Gelles say they will either plan a victory party or their next move.


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