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

By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Gov. Dayton signs Omnibus bill

No more estate claims for 55- to 65-year-old MA recipients


C.M. Swanson

Scott Killerud, Rick Rayburn, Rose Rayburn, Ellen Killerud, Julie Gelle, Claudia Foussard and Robert Gelle celebrate Gov. Mark Dayton signing the Omnibus supplemental budget bill June 1, removing liens on Medical Assistance recipients between 55 and 65 years of age for general health care.

Sunday night a tight knit group of activists in rural Minnesota broke out sparkling grape juice and chocolate cake in a victory celebration. Rick and Rose Rayburn, Scott and Ellen Killerud, Robert and Julie Gelle, and Claudia Foussard celebrated, not only for themselves, but also for tens of thousands of 55- to 65-year-old Minnesotans who had Department of Human Services (DHS) claims lifted from their estates when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Omnibus supplemental budget bill (H.F. 2749) into law June 1.

DHS claims were placed on estates when income levels and dropping of the asset test through expansion of the Affordable Care Act routed qualified applicants to Medical Assistance (MA), unbeknownst to applicants, via the MNsure website.

Late in 2015, when Scott and Ellen Killerud were shocked at finding an $11,000 claim against their Willow River farm, they contacted the Rayburns who discovered a $30,000 claim against their Finlayson home.

The outcry began. Gathering supporters Robert and Julie Gelle, retirees from Sandstone caught in the "MNsure Trap," and Claudia Foussard, a hairdresser from St. Paul who was devastated to find a claim on her estate, the group picked up momentum in a movement that was to bring about change.

They contacted county officials, DHS representatives, state representatives and legislators, media sources, family, friends, neighbors and associates to apprise them of the situation. They wrote and encouraged others to write letters to the editors of local newspapers. They called and encouraged others to call officials to register their discontent and request a change in the law. Foussard began a Facebook campaign to disseminate information about the situation.

Sen. Tony Lourey (D) responded by writing a bill to discontinue the practice of placing claims against estates of 55- to 65-year-olds on MA to be reimbursed for general health care costs. Representatives Jason Rarick (R) and Matt Dean (R) authored a similar bill in the House. Scott Killerud, Rick Rayburn, Julie Gelle, and Claudia Foussard testified at House and Senate hearings.

"When you have something that just makes sense and you have an active group of folks that really helps make the case," said Sen. Lourey, "It really can work."

"We worked together and we got something done that needed to be done," said Rick Rayburn. "We took the initiative and everybody worked together."

With months of work behind them successfully leading to a change of the law, how do members of the group feel?

"I can take the backpack off," said Julie Gelle. "I don't have to carry the estate lien around any more. It's gone. It's like you can breathe fresh air again."

"I feel fine," said Scott Killerud. "It was so wrong from the very beginning that it didn't seem possible in a world of thinking people that this could actually stand. It's fine that it is done and behind us."

Though the bill has been signed, some in the group are still wary.

"We got it passed," said Foussard. "Hopefully they will follow through to having the liens wiped out. I'm still leery."

Rose Rayburn won't really believe it until she has written word, which is to come from DHS.

"I am waiting for the 'Get Out of Jail Free' card to come in the mail," she said.

Scott Killerud points out, while they won the battle, the war in health care is still raging. He states large health care organizations have profits over people policy.

"This is where the $800 a month per person premiums come into play," said Killerud. "These are so fake and so wrong. As long as there is that much money exchanging hands into a 'nonprofit' organization (health plan provider), there is no end to the evil that can continue."

Sen. Lourey affirms more changes are necessary in the health care industry.

"There is no perfect system anywhere in the world," said Sen. Lourey. "There never has been. We have to keep working toward those goals, access to quality, affordable health care.

"We have high quality health care in Minnesota. We have some issues with access. We've made significant strides on access. The affordability piece we still struggle with. We have a lot of work to do."

Though there are many battles to come, removing liens on MA recipients between 55 and 65 years of age for general health care is one that ended in victory by the grass roots group. It was a fight that brought the group closer together.

"I'm happy for everybody that we could help ourselves and other people in the process," said Ellen Killerud. "That's the name of the game."

"It was traumatic at times, and very stressful," said Rose Rayburn of the entire experience. "Luckily, the energy and all of the time spent culminated in a victory of getting justice served."

"This bond will probably fade," said Rick Rayburn of the group and its followers, "but I know they will all have the memories that they were involved in something much larger than themselves. I've been calling people, thanking them, telling them, this is something we couldn't have done by ourselves. You are the people who got the word out. You spread it. I love these people. I'm not the kind of guy to say that much, but I have to say, this is special."


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