Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shelley Madore

Shelley Madore is my state representative. Two years ago she broke through the south metro Republican strangle-hold on House and Senate seats. Today in the Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman tells the story of how she came to be involved in politics:

Madore, 45, is a DFLer from Apple Valley who ran for the state House of Representatives in 2006 after encountering the indifference of legislative leaders to people in her situation. At the time, Madore and her husband, Paul, were earning about $50,000 a year and struggling to make the payments on their modest home and the $908 monthly premium on their health insurance.

The family's financial well-being was devastated when Madore's daughter, Erica, who was having trouble walking, received a long-overdue $25 X-ray. Until then, Madore said, her doctor suggested that Erica, 9 at the time, was having psychological problems, and he refused to order X-rays. After the Madores went to another doctor, out of their insurance network, an X-ray was done. It showed a tumor pressing on Erica's spinal cord. The operation that followed cost $60,000. Madore learned the price tag when the hospital asked her to pay it.

"But I have insurance," Madore said. "The company says it won't pay for the operation," the hospital replied. "You will have to pay it yourself."

Millions of Americans are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. The Madore family (son Jason is autistic), knows what living on the edge is like.

The only way they could pay for Erica's operation (she is 17 now), was to apply for assistance under a program limited to families with less than $3,000 in cash assets. Madore, working as an advocate for special-needs families, became disgusted with the system and went to the state Capitol to talk with legislators about fixing it.

She was told by a Republican legislator that her need to buy supplementary insurance to cover her family's huge medical bills was a "discretionary expense" like his decision to pay extra for "ice time" for his son's hockey practice. She was outraged. And then she turned her anger into community service and political action. Now she is part of a group of mostly freshman legislators who are proposing a version of a comprehensive healthcare plane for MN.

Their Minnesota Health Plan faces some tough sledding in the legislature. Our Republican governor continues to oppose any move towards universal healthcare. And some of the old-guard leadership in the DFL are still a bit too cozy with those who gave us the "miracle" of managed care.

But the times they are a' changing. And Madore's victory in the south metro is a sign of that. It wasn't that long ago that Republicans rode to victory in the governor's mansion and in the state legislature on the strength of the suburban bubble of prosperity that ringed the metro area. Those suburban Republicans were much more concerned about getting enough "ice time" for their kids than they were about families without healthcare. They were also outraged that they had to pay more in annual vehicle taxes for their BMW's than those driving beat-up Chevys. They had the same feelings about having to support a public school system with their property taxes. And God forbid any of their money be used to support public transportation.

But the bubble has burst. The healthcare system is broke, our infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are in trouble. In the suburbs. Under Republican watch. Madore is part of the wave of DFL Senators and Representatives who kicked out the no-taxes crowd in the suburbs and put the Legislature back in control of the party that actually cares about the welfare of struggling families in the state. They have their work cut out for them, but Shelley's personal experience suggests that she is the kind of legislator who knows what it takes to bring change against long odds.

1 comment:

ProgressiveChurchlady said...

I am honored and proud to have Shelley Madore as my state Representative and also as a friend. She is a great mom and a smart legislator.

I'm glad she's shaking up and waking up the DFL leadership at the state capitol by talking about single payer health care.

The time is NOW! Let's all help Madore keep this conversation going this session in MN and also along the campaign trail during this state and federal election season!