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Open Forum

Sen. Al Franken: Let's start working together to cut prescription drug prices for Minnesotans

Letter to the Editor

Now is a good time for Republicans in Congress and the president to take a step back from their divisive efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and start working in a bipartisan way solve the real problems people face, including rising prescription drug prices.

To do that, we have to start by listening to Minnesotans and people across the country.

If we did, we might hear from a St. Paul woman who stopped taking her arthritis medicine because the drug company increased the price from $60 per treatment to $1,400. This put her in the awful position of having to choose between paying for her treatment and keeping a roof over her head. She chose the latter, but now it's hard for her to grasp a knife or fork. She told me she's angry she can't age gracefully, and I can understand why.

We also might learn about the difficulties of a Duluth couple whose retirement became increasingly unaffordable after the price of one of their medications jumped more than six times the original amount, from a total of $80 every three months to $500.

These are the stories I heard throughout Minnesota last year as part of my "Prescription Drug Cost Listening Tour." I heard about the often-devastating impact that skyrocketing drug prices are having on the lives of people in our state. It's because of these stories — and millions more like them in large and small communities across the country — that I am pressing to refocus the health care debate in Washington.

I'm focused on what I believe we should have been doing all along: working together to build on the ACA’s successes and to fix the problems that too many families and small businesses face, like premium increases on the individual market and fast-rising prescription drug prices.

We know skyrocketing drug prices have contributed to rising health care costs. Recent double-digit increases — far beyond the U.S. inflation rate — are putting essential, even life-saving, medicines out of reach for too many people.

That's why I've recently introduced a comprehensive proposal to bring down drug prices and offer relief to thousands of Minnesota families and seniors. I've been joined on the legislation by 15 Senate colleagues, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who all share my concerns. My bill would address four important issues.

First, it would help make prescription drugs more affordable. One way to do this would be to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs used by seniors, a proposal that could save up to $24 billion a year.

Second, my bill would promote choice and competition by ending anti-competitive behaviors by the pharmaceutical industry, something on which Sen. Klobuchar has been a leader. It would end an underhanded practice called "pay for delay," which is when brand-name drug manufacturers actually pay the makers of less-expensive but equally effective generic alternatives to stay out of the market.

Third, this bill would improve transparency. Drug companies often blame the high cost of their drugs on the price of research and development — even though they often spend more on advertising and marketing than on R&D. We actually don't know very much about how these drug companies spend their money. It's something we should fix.

Finally, we need to reward innovation. That means investing in research to get more drugs to market while also rewarding innovative and new drug development.

For far too long, our nation's health care debate has been far too divisive. We now have an opportunity to begin working together to solve some of our most vexing health care problems. Addressing the high cost of prescription drugs is a good place to start.

Al Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate

The Landing Welcome Center & Marketplace

Letter to the Editor

Thanks to the Northland Press’s recent coverage there were loads of people at The Landing Welcome Center & Marketplace’s opening week and now the place is really humming. The Landing volunteers promote items created by local vendors as well as community resources, events, nonprofit groups and businesses that wish to advertise. Classes and events start later this month (come in to sign-up).

We’d like to take a moment to clear up a misperception that The Landing was given a $50,000 grant—the one mentioned in the latest article. Those funds went to the Initiative Foundation to organize and facilitate speakers, research, workshops, supplies, mailings and public presentations related to the Thriving Communities Initiative program. Once we completed the entire program, GoNorthMn (all local volunteers) was awarded $10,000 to spur tangible projects. GoNorthMn Steering Committee split that into three areas including Quality of Life with a new event “Love our Waters” coming August 5th, Area Marketing with a fold-up map of all the resources/businesses/events in the area, and Economic Development. That group decided on the local vendor marketplace, later adding a welcome center and class/event spaces and used their portion on newspaper ads to locate vendors, printing,  events, procurement of and improvements to the building selected. ‘Operating on a shoe string’ is not a new  concept for businesses in the area that can all appreciate the hard work and time required to make something successful. The Landing Welcome Center & Marketplace’s goal is to be a positive addition to the area both socially and economically for all five GoNorthMn towns. Please stop in and see what we have to offer!

The GoNorthMn Steering Committee

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Recording of City Council Meetings

Letter to the Editor

At the April meeting of the Manhattan Beach City Council, the Council denied the City Clerk’s request to record council meetings.

At the May meeting, when this was reflected in the April meeting minutes, the Council vehemently stated the Clerk’s minutes were incorrect. A member of the council claimed that her personal minutes showed they had tabled the discussion until the next budget meeting.

The Mayor, tongue in cheek, suggested the Clerk should listen to our personal recording of the April meeting and the Council then motioned and approved the changing of the minutes.

The Mayor should have taken his own advice as our tape recording clearly shows the Clerk was correct. The Council did in fact deny the request and did not table the discussion. The minutes should not have been changed.

Had they not denied her request, they would be able to resolve this type of issue with their own recordings.

Shame on our Council! Their lack of respect in their treatment of our newly elected City Clerk is apparent at every meeting and an embarrassment to our community.

Marilyn Wannebo
Manhattan Beach, MN

Love Life and Read History

Letter to the Editor

"We must understand history to avoid making the same mistakes." (Anonymous). My novels are historical fiction. Today I donated three first editions to the silent auction for the Crosslake Historical Society Fundraiser on May 16.   Please remember to support this fundraiser on Tuesday, May 16 at Whitefish Lodge and Suites.

Thank you.
Marty Duncan, Crosslake

First 100 days

Letter to the Editor

100 days, what have we learned? Well the President is in favor of nepotism, he has signed bills and orders that promote corruption. He has signed bills and orders that promote pollution and absolve the responsibility of those polluting. When you protect those bribing foreign officials and cover up the bribery of those officials then you have to expect that the foreign countries are going to reciprocate and protect those that bribe American officials and cover the identity of the American officials that are being bribed. When coal companies are no longer prevented from dumping tailings and other pollution in to rivers and the federal money is reduced that we spend on cleaning up lakes and rivers. We assume that only poor and working class live where the effects will be felt so if a few poor and common folks die or are sickened, so what, as long as the elite and their families are protected. If the size of the EPA is reduced and the records are no longer kept people won’t know how they are being sickened  or killed and corporations won’t have to follow those troublesome regulations that make it so much harder to get rich. Seeing as the undocumented aliens is going in a negative direction the reason for the wall that he wants built must be similar to the east German wall to keep those we have from escaping. He better hurry and get one up between us and Canada as I understand that a lot are getting out that way. I understand that those rich southern and southwestern farmers are a little upset with him as they are having a hard time getting replacements. I understand why he wants to have local police work for the federal government on rounding up immigrants if they can go to the police and report crimes then the employers won’t be able to keep them hidden back in the woods in conditions that would be illegal to keep domestic animals in and treat them like slaves as so many of them do. Life is just so hard for the top .01 percent.

On another note the bodies are already piling up for the McConnell Court.

Jesse Nix
Emily, MN

National Goodwill Week 2017- Changing Lives Through the Power of Work

Letter to the Editor

Despite significant strides in employment programs and services over the past few decades, the Department of Labor states that only about 17.5 percent of persons with a disability are employed in the U.S. today.

At Goodwill Industries of Duluth, MN we have nearly 100 years of experience serving the community — specifically people who have disabilities or other barriers to employment —with job opportunities and services. Here in the Northland, Goodwill provided job training and services in 2015-16 that helped 250 people find meaningful employment. We also kept nearly 3 million pounds of donations out of landfills through our recycling programs and secondary markets.

Since 1951, Goodwill agencies across the United States and Canada have marked the first full calendar week of May as Goodwill Industries Week, a time to celebrate the organization’s mission of enhancing the dignity and quality of life of individuals, families, and communities by providing access and opportunities to skills training and employment.

Working together, we can ensure that every individual in the Northland has the opportunity to be self-sufficient and reach their fullest potential through the power of work. Please help us to support our mission by shopping and donating at your nearest Goodwill store located at 36052 County Road 66.

Thank you,
Scott Vezina
Public Relations Specialist Goodwill Industries – Duluth, MN

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