Northwestern grad plays key role in state's health debate

Chuck Sawyer | January 18, 2017

A Northwestern graduate and chiropractor is in a leadership role as the Minnesota Legislature seeks to improve health care across the state.

With the Minnesota Legislature’s 2017 session underway, a veteran lawmaker and graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University is back in a leadership position.

Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), a chiropractic doctor, will chair the newly formed Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee. The committee plans to work closely with the existing Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee to address the future of health care and health insurance in Minnesota.

Inspired by his father, Jim Abeler Sr., who started his chiropractic practice in 1951 after serving in World War II, Sen. Abeler graduated from what was then known as Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1979. He has been in clinical practice for more than 37 years in Anoka.

After first winning election in 1998, Abeler served in the Minnesota House for 16 years before leaving in 2014 to run in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. After that unsuccessful bid, he then ran and was elected to the State Senate in 2016. Now he’s back in a familiar role and will draw on his health policy experience as his Senate committee confronts challenging times and issues.

Recently, Abeler sat down with Northwestern in the new Senate office building where he talked about his experience in the legislature and shared his views about the Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve been a voice for mainstream health care at a clinic level, and it’s been a useful niche for me [in the legislature],” he said.

“Health care has been all over the news lately with the Affordable Care Act, the elections and reform ideas. And the more that has been done lately, the more it’s gotten worse. We have to go back in a practical way. It has to be affordable, it has to be accessible and it has to be quality.”

Abeler was characteristically candid in a recent op-ed piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune when expressing his concern over the effect that sharply rising insurance premiums is having on Minnesota families.

“It is time for the governor, his commissioners and the Legislature to act,” he said.

And now he’s in an important policy position to make a difference.

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