Dean Phillips continues to campaign on health care being a “moral right,” despite feeling differently as an employer.
Phillips, a Democrat hoping to unseat Rep. Erik Paulsen, has made health care a focus of his campaign, calling it a “moral right.” However, earlier this month, Phillips came under fire for failing to provide health care coverage to employees at his upscale coffee shop Penny’s Coffee.
Republicans slammed Phillips for engaging in the “worst kind of hypocrisy,” saying he changed his tune for political expediency. Phillips shot back, claiming the ad was a “mistruth” and that his company eventually offered health care benefits to full-time employees. Phillips did not say when the new health coverage policy was put in place, and it is unclear whether part-time employees of Penny’s Coffee will eventually be offered health benefits.
Phillips’ past in the business world continues to haunt him, this time for his time association with hospitals looking to strip nurses of health and pension benefits.
In 2005, Phillips was appointed to serve on the Board Of Directors for Allina Hospitals and Clinics. In 2009, Phillips took over as Chairman of the Board of Directors and held the position until 2011.
During a forum in Eden Prairie in August, Phillips touted his time with Allina, saying his position on the board gives him the knowledge to address the health care crisis.
“The problem is, we don’t have many people in Congress that have served on the board of health systems and understand the dynamics of how this works and that’s something I bring to the table and I intend to,” Phillips said during the forum. “Because we have a cost problem and it has got to be addressed and I know how to do it. It’s gonna be hard work, but I know how to do it.”
However, in recounting his time with Allina, Phillips failed to mention the nurses strike that resulted from hospitals attempting to cut health and benefits for nurses. In 2010, 12,000 nurses from fourteen Twin Cities hospitals went on strike after “corporate health care interests” threatened to reduce their benefits.
According to a union steward for the Minnesota Nurses Association, the hospitals were demanding part-time nurses “in the name of scheduling flexibility,” but then tried to “strip their health insurance, sick leave, and vacations.”
Allina, with Phillips as the chairman of the board, operated five hospitals involved in the strike. At the time, a spokesperson for the hospital said their margins were “being squeezed” by multiple factors including federal health care reform. The reform put financial pressure on the hospital, leading to an attempt to save costs by reducing benefits.
Phillips has not explained how his views on health care have changed since his time on the board of Allina.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, has dubbed Phillips “dishonest Dean” for his double standard on health care coverage.
“Dishonest Dean Phillips got caught refusing to offer health care to his employees and now he is misleading Minnesota voters,” said Michael Byerly, CLF spokesman. “Even worse, another company run by Phillips tried to cut nurses’ health and pension benefits.”
Byerly says Phillips’ hypocrisy on health care proves cannot be trusted in Congress.
A new ad from CLF highlights Phillips’ change in tune on health care over the years. Watch the ad below: