For more information contact: George Damian
I hope you are having a fantastic Summer! It's hard to believe the State Fair is already upon us and Fall is right around the corner. In this legislative update you will read a bit about efforts to combat the heroin epidemic, the work done in Minnesota to stabilize the individual health insurance market, and more overreach by the Met Council that will negatively impact West-Metro residents.
Minnesota, and particularly Hennepin County, has not been immune to the costly and tragic heroin epidemic sweeping the country. To combat this, the Hennepin County Sheriff Stanek's office has initiated the #NOverdose campaign to raise awareness. There will be an outing to a Twins Game on August 29th and a booth at the State Fair for more information. To learn more about the campaign, you can click here.
2016 was a record year for opioid-related deaths in Hennepin County, totaling 153, a 39 percent increase over 2015. During January through June of 2017, there were 73 opioid-related deaths, an 11 percent increase from the same time last year.
Due to the record number of opioid-related deaths during 2016 in Hennepin County, the Sheriff’s Office launched a drug abuse prevention campaign called #NOverdose. As part of this campaign, the Sheriff’s Office is partnering with area schools, law enforcement agencies, elected officials, businesses, and health & community organizations to educate parents and youth about current drug dangers and trends.
70 percent of prescription drug abusers say they obtained their supply of prescription medications from friends and family. Properly disposing of prescription medication, such as opioids, can significantly decrease the likelihood of individuals having access to these highly addictive drugs. There are two drop off locations in our district -- one in the lobby of the Chanhassen City Hall and the other at the Hennepin County Sheriff's Water Patrol Office in Spring Park.
Preventing tragic and preventable deaths have always been important to me and I will continue to work to bring light to this issue and help end the opioid epidemic. I was honored to have served on the National Task Force on Mental Health and Substance User Disorders through Women In Government, a legislative organization with which I am affiliated and serve as one of Minnesota's State Directors as well.
Double-Digit Health Insurance Rate Increases Halted
Earlier this summer the Minnesota Department of Commerce released preliminary rates for the 2018 individual insurance market, revealing that Republican-led reforms may end the four year trend of double-digit premium increases since the implementation of Obamacare and MNsure in Minnesota. The individual market serves Minnesotans who do not receive health insurance through their employer or the government.
If approved by the federal government, the Minnesota Premium Security Plan will result in premium decreases for tens of thousands of Minnesotans. In contrast, average rates increased by double digits every year since 2014, including nearly 60 percent for 2017. As a result of the reinsurance program, all current insurers will continue serving the individual market next year. In addition to the reinsurance program, we successfully pushed for consumer protections that will provide access to better networks of hospitals and doctors.
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, rates could have risen by 25% or more without our reforms.
Reinsurance was a tool to stabilize the market and halt the huge increases that have been a trademark of the last few years under MNsure and Obamacare. This was the first step and now much more work is needed to put downward pressure on health care costs to make sure Minnesota can once again become a national leader in health care.
I've spoken with so many of you since our legislative session(s) ended and health care costs and access remain top issues for many families in our area. In fact, I recently spoke with local members at the Carver County Farm Bureau meeting who expressed concerns about many issues – from buffers to regulations regarding ditch mowing – but their number one issue was skyrocketing health insurance prices, which have plagued Minnesota since the implementation of Obamacare and MNsure. I was pleased to have supported Republican efforts to stabilize the market and stop the huge yearly increases so many were facing.
SouthWest Transit budget cut by Met Council
I was contacted recently by SouthWest Transit regarding severe cuts to their operating budget by the Met Council half way through their existing fiscal year. SouthWest Transit simply expected their current operating agreement would be honored.
SouthWest Transit serves the West Metro very well and its coach bus service is exactly the type of public transit areas like ours need. Together with House Transportation Chair Paul Torkelson and Rep. Jen Loon, a meeting was held with the SouthWest Transit and the Met Council to get an explanation as to what was transpiring.
The action of cutting SouthWest Transit's budget mid-cycle by the Met Council undermines the effectiveness of a successful busing operation and may result in creating a false demand for the expensive and inefficient South West Light Rail. This move by the Met Council to cut the budget of SouthWest Transit will impact people relying on these rides this year. Unfortunately, there is nothing more the legislature can do until we are back in session next year.
This is another example of why major reforms to the Met Council are absolutely necessary. You can read more about that exact issue in an editorial by my colleague Rep. Linda Runbeck.
As always, it is an honor and privilege to serve you and your families in the Minnesota House of Representatives. If you would like to get in contact with me, you can email me at email@example.com or call my office 651-296-4315.
Hope to see you at the Fair!