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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Mayo's name gets dragged into partisan politics

Mayo's name gets dragged into partisan politics

Mayo Clinic is distancing itself from ads being run by Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn.

In recent weeks, Hagedorn’s campaign has been airing ads suggesting a looming doomsday for Mayo if his Democratic challenger, Dan Feehan, is elected to represent southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

One ad, for instance, says policy proposals from Feehan and other Democrats would “threaten care” at the Mayo Clinic. Another shows Mayo’s ranking as the top hospital in the nation, and goes on to state: "Southern Minnesota has some of the best medical care in the world, but Feehan … would blow it up, leading to doctor shortages and hospital closings.”

The ads are consistent with Hagedorn’s messaging on the campaign trail. During a campaign event with President Donald Trump in September, Hagedorn told the crowd gathered at the Mayo Civic Center: “We have all these congressional candidates, including the guy I’m running against, who thinks we should have socialized medicine, single-payer [coverage]. Does that make sense for the Mayo Clinic, Rochester? No.”

Mayo, however, is not taking sides in the race — and privately, their leadership is worried about the institution’s name being used in political advertisements, according to a source we spoke with. Mayo is ardently nonpartisan, and the organization is concerned their name could be dragged into the partisan bickering that has polarized the nation.

When asked about the ads, a Mayo spokesperson did not get into specifics. But she did reiterate Mayo’s stance as a non-partisan entity. Additionally, the clinic has asked the campaign to refrain from including Mayo’s name in its advertisements, according to a report from a local TV station.

“As a non-profit and non-partisan organization, Mayo Clinic does not endorse candidates nor do we or would we coordinate with political campaigns,” the Mayo spokesperson said in an emailed response.

Hagedorn declined to participate in an interview with Med City Beat. However, in a written statement, his campaign said the ads “in no way” imply an endorsement from Mayo. Instead, Hagedorn said the goal is to warn voters about the potential consequences of “socialized medicine.”

Healthcare has been a key topic this election cycle, with both parties promising solutions to make coverage more affordable. According to a recent poll from Gallup, 80 percent of registered voters say healthcare is either very or extremely important to them — higher than any other issue.

Historically, Mayo has worked with presidents from both parties, including both Presidents Obama and Trump. Dr. John Noseworthy, the organization’s president and CEO, has conveyed mixed feelings about the Affordable Care Act. While he has been supportive of certain components of the law, such as covering patients with pre-existing conditions, he has expressed concern that the voices of both patients and doctors aren’t being heard enough.

In an interview with Med City Beat, Feehan said it is important that Mayo is included in any conversation on healthcare reform. Feehan said he has talked with Mayo doctors and believes that if they are part of the conversation, that America has a chance to achieve “a unique healthcare system.”

“The Mayo Clinic is a place with the history of being at the forefront of health innovation in this country,” said Feehan. “There is an opportunity right now for them to do that yet again and transition this country to a place where people are actively seeking preventative care.”

Feehan said the status quo of healthcare right now — including the Affordable Care Act — is untenable and in need of reform. He supports providing a public option for people to buy into Medicare.

“The principle is getting to a place where everyone can have access to affordable care — something we do not achieve right now,” said Feehan.

The battle for Minnesota’s First District is one of the most closely-watched congressional races in the country. As of the writing, Democrats have about an 86 percent chance of taking back the House of Representatives.

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