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House DFLers unveil plan to reduce health care costs, improve care for Minnesotans

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SAINT PAUL, MINN. – House DFL lawmakers unveiled a package of initiatives today designed to reduce health care cost and improve care for Minnesotans including efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, eliminate surprise billing, improve care for children, and reduce waste in Minnesota’s health care system. The package responds to challenges that many Minnesotans with health insurance face on a regular basis by putting more power in the hands of Minnesotans as opposed to powerful prescription drug manufacturers and insurance companies.


“Minnesota has been a leader in health care and we have improved health care access for Minnesota families, but we know that we have more progress to make to ensure Minnesotans have access to quality, affordable coverage,” said House DFL Deputy Leader Erin Murphy. “This legislative package includes common sense solutions that specifically respond to what we are hearing from Minnesotans who want affordable, quality health care for themselves and their families.”


The plan also aims to empower health care consumers and provide them with more information so they can make better decisions about the care they receive. This includes efforts to prohibit “surprise billing” from out-of-network providers and better price disclosure.


“Too often Minnesotans experience sticker shock when they get a bill in the mail from a health care provider,” said State Rep. Laurie Halverson. “This proposal includes some basic transparency reforms that should make it easier for consumers stay informed and should prevent some of these surprise bills from showing up in the mailbox.”


Bringing transparency and cost reductions to prescription drugs is a priority in the proposal. The cost of prescription drugs continues to rise to unsustainable levels for Minnesota seniors and families alike. In fact, one in four Americans report difficulties in affording their prescriptions. This proposal aims to tackle this issue through improved price transparency, including a new initiative that would require prescription drug manufacturers to publicly report total production costs of drugs, including marketing and advertising costs.


“When you talk to Minnesotans about their frustrations with our health care system the high cost of prescription drugs is often the first thing that comes up,” said State Rep. Joe Mullery, lead Democrat on the Health and Human Services Reform committee. “Prescription drug companies are often reaping huge profit margins on these drugs and we believe that Minnesotans deserve to know how much these big prescription drug companies are spending to bring drugs to market, including the cost of their marketing and advertising.”


The proposal would also establish an evidence-based prescription drug education program for physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. This program would help prescribers understand medications available to patients outside the influence of profit-driven pharmaceutical companies.


“Powerful pharmaceutical companies have huge budgets to promote their most expensive products, but the most costly drug is not always best for the patient,” said State Rep. Tina Liebling, co-lead on the House Health and Human Services Finance committee. “Providing evidence-based prescribing information to our medical community can yield better health care outcomes and cost savings for Minnesotans.”


Waste reduction and long-term cost reduction measures are included in the proposal as well. The proposal would increase funding for investigative audits to target waste that can be found and addressed.


“We all want our health care dollars to be used wisely and go only towards effective care delivered to patients who need it,” said said State Rep. Diane Loeffler (DFL – Minneapolis) co-lead on the Health and Human Services Finance committee. “We are pursuing some practical strategies to reduce waste in our health care system, which ultimately leads to better and more affordable care for Minnesotans.”


In addition, legislators aim to reduce long-term health care costs through investment in early-intervention strategies such as school-linked mental health services and funding for additional school social workers. 

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