Monday, January 18, 2010


As you may recall, I send all ten of the gubernatorial candidates a question for them to answer regarding hepatitis C and what they will do as governor to address this very serious issue. I received five responses back. I've submitted them to reNEW.MN Campaign. Here's the responses with my comments.

Paul Thissen
Good to see you last night. I read through the information you sent this morning. Thanks for the alert and sharing your story - and the thoughtful way you are approaching your health and condition. A lot of wisdom there.

One possibilty that we've used in the past is to hold an informational committee meeting to raise the profile about hepatitis C. The upcoming costs of addressing the condition makes it particularly relevant, it seems to me. Let me know what you think.


This was the best response. It shows that Paul Thissen is ready, willing and eager to listen to the concerns of Minnesotans. He even asked me what I think of his idea. Politicians don't usually do that. I'm very impressed with Thissen.

John Marty
Thanks for sending me this article. I care. And I believe we need to do everything possible to help address people with their medical needs, no matter what they are. There is much that I need to learn about Hepatitis C, and would welcome more information. I understand from your note that there is far too little research going into it, and believe that our country --the wealthiest nation on the planet must prioritize medical research more.

As far as medical care for people, I designed and authored, and am now fighting for the MN Health Plan, in order to treat health care as a right, for everyone, for all of their medical needs. Almost 45,000 people die every year from a lack of access to health care, and I am committed to passing the MHP within my first two years in the governor's office. We can, and must pass this.

As I mentioned above, I would appreciate more information about Hep C, and the congressional proposal for more research that you referred to.

This is also an excellent reply. Again, it shows that the candidate is more than willing to listen to people. He's also eager to learn more about this virus. I do want to say that there is plenty of research and there are a lot of new drugs in the pipeline that are in clinical trials. The main problem is lack of education. Most people don't even know what HCV is. There are a multitude of Baby Boomers who have HCV but who have not yet been diagnosed. Many are not diagnosed until they get cirrhosis. Thanks for caring about this issue, John.

Matt Entenza
Hepatitis C is a serious condition with significant budgetary implications, and is yet another example of why we need a health care system that works for everyone. It is also an instance of the importance of preventative care. In addition to the immediate human concern of minimizing suffering, it is critical that our health care policy aim as much as possible at detecting and treating illnesses before they become much more serious conditions in order to control spending. Establishing a system in which everyone has health care is the only way to effectively cut costs and improve the overall of health of our people.

Matt's staffer Jeremy Drucker sent me this response, so I wasn't sure if it was Matt's response or just Jeremy's response. It's a generic, political answer. I met Matt in person at the DFL SD62 Spaghetti Dinner. He came over to talk to me. I asked him if it was his view or his staffer's. He replied that it's the view of the entire campaign. Finally, on a more personal note, he told me that he has friends with hepatitis C. Ok, so Matt knows what I'm talking about. Matt is very correct is saying that we need to detect and treat serious illnesses before they have a chance to get worse and cause fatalities and/or transplants. The best way is for doctors to have patients complete a survey regarding risk factors for HCV, just as they currently do for depression.

Tom Rukavina
Hepatitis C is treatable but treatment is only effective about ½ the time. As Governor I can appoint a commissioner of health who would push for more screening, particularly of Baby Boomers, to encourage detection before the disease takes its toll. However, the most effective way to respond to Hepatitis C is prevention. Prevention of exposure through medical treatments, particularly transfusions, has been very effective showing us the way we need to respond to other potentially infectious processes. Most new cases of Hepatitis C today in the United States are attributable to intravenous drug use. A Governor can have the courage to take on a controversial subject and support legislation to provide clean needles for drug users. This makes sense for Hepatitis C and other diseases that are spread through sharing dirty needles.

We lost one of finest college presidents in Minnesota to this disease. He tried to fight it through both traditional and experimental drug therapies but in the end he died a painful and difficult death while still in the prime of life. Had he lived, many people would have been better off than they are today. We can't afford to waste that kind of talent to a disease that can be prevented. As Governor, I will take a lead to prevent these kind of tragedies.

Tom is on the right track here, but he obviously needs to be educated about hepatitis C. I'm glad he included the personal note about losing someone he knew to HCV. However, it's a shame he used the word "dirty needles." This phrase stigmatizes the disease and gives people the impression that it's a dirty disease. In reality, anyone can get hepatitis C for a lot of different reasons. While it's true that it's now rare to get it from blood transfusions, because the blood supply is now screened for it, you can still get it from sharing personal items that may cause a blood-to-blood transfer of the virus, such as toothbrushes, razors, manicure scissors, tweezers, etc. It's also rare to get it from tatoo parlors, since there are now laws regulating the use and disposal of the needles and ink. However, people still get it from homemade tatoos and from in-prison tatoos. Even children have been found to have hepatitis C. The hepatitis C community does everything it can to assure that the disease does not have a stigma associated with it. Also, I should point out that there is a certain percentage of individuals who have no idea where they got the virus. They don't have any of the usual risk factors. Theoretically, if a person with HCV is walking in the woods and sticks his ankle on a thorn, then someone else walks by a bit later and sticks his ankle on the same thorn, he could conceivably get HCV. This would be a very rare occurrence, but it could happen. Also, an infected mother can pass the virus on to her child during the birth process. This is rare, too, but it does happen. Tom Rukavina has the right idea. The most important thing right now is to get people tested, and if they test positive, treated.

Mark Dayton
Dear Colleen - I do not intend to consider any realignment within any state agencies, until after I am elected Governor and have appointed the Commissioners of the respective agencies. At that time, I would welcome your recommendations for how the Department of Health could be improved. Sincerely - Mark

I'm impressed that he's willing to listen to what I have to say about the very serious issue of hepatitis C and its devastating health care costs.

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