Thank you for the continued coverage of the health care debate at the Minnesota State Capitol and the discussion about the potential sunset of the 2 percent provider tax. While the fate of health care programs hangs in the balance, Minnesota residents should also be aware of the many effective public health initiatives that also depend on this revenue.

Local efforts to reduce smoking and slow the growth of obesity can help cut health care costs. The State Health Improvement Program alone has helped Minnesota save hundreds of millions of dollars since 2011. As the House and Senate look for ways to resolve their differences, I hope both sides will think bigger than health insurance. Preventing illnesses before they happen is not only more cost-effective, it is also preferable for the people who never get sick in the first place.

Minnesota is one of the nation’s healthiest states, but we should not take anything for granted. Working together, we can make a great state even better.

Matt Flory, St. Louis Park

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Recent articles outline the problem with providing appropriate health care for the most deserving members — indeed, all of us — in our statewide community. As noted, the 2 percent tax on many providers is scheduled to sunset at the end of this year. I’m a physician, mostly retired, who witnessed the installment of this tax (and even lived with it), and I implore our Legislature not to let this occur. It’s necessary on many levels. But then comes the article about insurance companies reaping significant profits (“Health plans made money in 2018,” April 2), on the heels of a well-stated bipartisan state Senate opinion piece about rendering a tax on those third-party payers as a way of funding MinnesotaCare or otherwise helping poorer patients and allowing access to needed and necessary care (“Here’s a sensible way to keep funding the state’s public health programs,” March 29).

Just so no one feels too bad for the insurance companies, notice the splendor and architectural brilliance of some of the home and regional office buildings of these companies in the Twin Cities and around the country. They’re doing fine. The math seems pretty simple: Continue the provider tax and tax the insurance companies on profits. Doesn’t that add up to a healthier, more productive and creative Minnesota?

Dr. Paul Waytz, Minneapolis


If you want fewer of them, a ban is the wrong way to go about it

As a student of social work, I’m stunned. As a mental health care professional, I’m disappointed. As an aspiring sexual education educator, I am outraged. The research is there: If you make abortion safe and legal, the number of fetuses removed from the womb and the number of women who die as a result of trying to perform or obtain an abortion will go down.

The proposal in the Minnesota Senate for banning abortions at or after 20 weeks (SF 1609) also takes patient privacy rights to a whole new level of violation, requiring extensive documentation on things like her insurance status, her age, various aspects of her medical history, her mental status, her economic status, how the pregnancy happened (in some cases), among many other invasive documentation questions. It is no longer enough for us to be involved in what a woman does with her own womb, but we are now demanding all of the potential details surrounding it. This is terrifying and, in my professional opinion, will lead to more women trying to perform the procedure at home, where they are far more likely to die to avoid all of this invasive disclosure.

It’s impossible to call yourself prolife and anti-legal-abortion and anti-birth-control when you look at the numbers in research studies surrounding this issue. When birth control is accessible, abortions go down; when abortion is made legal, the number of them performed actually goes down. Trying to decrease abortion by making it illegal is the same as sitting in a sinking canoe using your bailing bucket to fill the canoe with even more water, sinking you faster. When will we open our eyes wider and truly learn?

Hillary Hercules, Minneapolis


Everyone pays a price when we don’t have this policy in place

The cost of enacting paid family and medical leave is high, but we are already paying the price for failing to enact these policies. Women are paying the price by being underrepresented in the workforce compared with countries with paid-leave policies. Low-income families and families of color are paying the price by being the largest populations of people without access to paid leave. Black women are paying the price, when nearly 70 percent are the primary or sole earners for their families, compounding the pay inequality that they already experience. Businesses are paying the price in higher employee turnover and training costs. Taxpayers are paying the price when more families are experiencing financial crisis due to pregnancy or illness and find themselves needing public assistance.

We can continue to lament the cost of mandating paid family and medical leave, but we cannot ignore the cost we already pay by leaving more than 80 percent of Minnesotans without it. The Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota estimates that only 13 percent of Minnesotans have access to paid leave through an employer, which leads me to wonder how this is not a bipartisan issue. With the majority of Minnesotans affected by this issue, it’s time to stop asking if we can afford it and figure out how we will afford it.

Natasha Gorecki, St. Paul


If you haven’t already, put a check in that box on your driver’s license

About eight years ago I was given the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to save a life. A former co-worker was in need of a kidney transplant. My kidney and general health were in excellent condition, and through a transplant, the kidney failure that was threatening her life was eliminated.

After that, my friend received a cadaver pancreas, curing the underlying diabetes that caused her kidney failure. My friend has since lived almost another decade and been able to enjoy two beautiful grandchildren.

From this transformative experience, I learned the crucial importance of all kinds of organ and tissue donation.

Gentle readers, when you renew your driver’s license, please check the box to be an organ donor and consider becoming a living donor.

However you donate, you will be giving the gift of life.

JoAnn Pasternack, Mendota Heights


It’s maple ‘sugaring,’ not ‘syruping,’ and don’t get me started …

A couple of weeks ago, one of the local morning news shows aired a spot about “syruping.” Then there was an article in the Star Tribune using the same word. There is no such thing as “syruping.” The tapping of maple trees and boiling down the sap is called “sugaring.” It always has been and always will be. In fact, while I type this letter, my computer is telling me that “syruping” is not even a word!

I’m over 50 and grew up in Vermont and sugared for many years. I am getting sick and tired of the continued bastardization of our language/lexicon for no apparent reason. It’s not enough that liberal forces are attempting to replace the descriptor “illegal alien” with “undocumented”; they have now decided to start redefining classic/original descriptions of centuries-old practices in an attempt to further dumb down the populace. All you “syruping” busybodies need to find something productive to do.

Bret R. Collier, Big Lake