Local Cities Throw Support Behind Rural Health Care Bill After Mayo Consolidation

March 08, 2018 01:50 AM

(ABC 6 News) – In 2017 Mayo Clinic decided to consolidate some medical services from their Albert Lea Health Systems location to their Austin campus.

Now local lawmakers are trying to put some of those pieces back in place.


Albert Lea Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, introduced a new bill that would encourage health care providers to move into rural areas in Minnesota.

"We have a crisis going on in rural Minnesota with access to health care and health care affordability," Bennett said.

That bill was heard by the House Tax Committee at the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday morning.

"It would allow for tax breaks for these providers who would come to serve these areas that are short on services," Bennett said. 

The bill would provide a statewide property tax levy abatement, exemption from sales tax for construction and office equipment and local property taxes.  To qualify for, the medical facility would need to be located in an area with a federal designation of "medically underserved."

"We have a shortage of providers," Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said. 

Pockets of qualifying areas are spread throughout southeast Minnesota, including some in Freeborn County.

"The service that we want might be in correlation to the services that were transitioned from Mayo,” Adams; said. “If there's a company that wants to come in and provide that, we'd be able to use some of these state and local tax incentives specifically for that purpose."

Adams and Blooming Prairie Mayor Harold Peterson both testified for the bill.

"[For] disadvantaged young families, to take a day off of work to load up the family to head to Albert Lea, to head to Owatonna, to head to Austin; it’s not very convenient at all,” Peterson said. “It's not really providing health care."

"Our healthcare costs and insurance costs in southeastern Minnesota including Freeborn County are about 20-25 percent higher than the rest of the state, so we have an increased challenge to try to attract medical facilities and providers and physicians here," Adams said.

"One of my goals is to make sure that our local voices are heard here with the loss of local access to health care," Bennett said.

Those who testified also added that Bennett's bill was well-received. It will go back to the tax committee for an official vote sometime next week.


Elise Romas

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