Dana Hoeningschmidt of Ramsey is like many of us in that she knows people who have been affected by cancer, but she chose to become involved with the American Cancer Society to advocate for more funding and better laws to help those who will eventually face the same turmoil.
Hoeningschmidt was one of nine people recognized as the top advocacy volunteer team in the country at a September American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“For me, it’s not about getting an award, it’s how we got there,” said Hoeningschmidt, who has also volunteered at Relay for Life events in Anoka, Champlin and Elk River since getting involved in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network five years ago.
Hoeningschmidt previously participated in Relay for Life events to honor those close to her who had cancer, including her girlfriend who died from breast cancer 10 years ago. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law are breast cancer survivors. Her father-in-law beat prostate cancer. Her father is still being treated for bladder cancer and also had skin cancer.
Issues such as promoting the MNsure online health care insurance exchange, raising the tobacco tax by $1.60 per pack and protecting funding for the breast and cervical cancer screening program are some of the big issues on which her group advocated for this past year.
Hoeningschmidt was a voice of small business owners when she testified in legislative committees in support of MNsure and she was featured in Gov. Mark Dayton’s MNsure newsletter, according to Emily Rohloff, a media representative for the cancer society’s network in Madison, Wis.
Hoeningschmidt has owned the Kids Country Childcare Center in St. Francis for the past 11 years and now has about 25 employees. MNsure is meant to provide health care plan options to all individuals who are self-employed, unemployed or work for a small business with less than 50 employees.
“I’m in a situation where every year I’ve seen the premiums increase,” Hoeningschmidt said. “I would say that since I opened the (childcare) center 11 years ago and started offering health insurance, we’re paying probably 15 times more than we were that first year.”
Hoeningschmidt is not expecting rates to lower, but believes MNsure will level them off.
The MNsure website went live Oct. 1 and news reports have shown much more competitive rates in the metro area compared with outstate Minnesota, especially southeast Minnesota.
According to a recent article in the Rochester Post Bulletin, consumers in the Rochester area only have one plan to choose from while Twin Cities residents have 66 plans to peruse. The cost to customers is also more.
Matt Schafer, government relations director for Minnesota’s American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said they have seen the same reports and in looking statewide it appears the highest rates are in southeast Minnesota.
“But it sounds like those rates have always been higher than other parts of the state because one health system controls the market down there,” Schafer said in reference to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
What the Minnesota Cancer Action Network likes about MNsure is it has a board of directors that will be looking out for individuals by forcing companies to be more transparent about the downfalls of plans and will be strict on companies that just drop patients in the middle of cancer treatments. It allows a person to sign up for health coverage through an insurance broker, insurance agent or health care navigators. A board member cannot serve if he or she has a conflict of interest.
“As a small business owner I have to say that I do not feel that the health care reform and all of its policies are where they need to be,” Hoeningschmidt said regarding the federal Affordable Care Act program.
“I think it’s a starting point, but as far as MNsure is concerned, I’m very grateful that the state stepped in to do its own version rather than just getting on board with the federal insurance exchange because we do have one of the bet insurance systems in the United States, so our representatives protected us by doing that.”
Eric Hagen is at