Today, state budget officials released the February Economic Forecast which will guide us in setting a new two-year state budget. While the outlook has improved from the last one in November, we must remain committed to protecting what we valued before the pandemic – namely, great schools, affordable, quality health care, and economic security for Minnesotans – and recognize just how important investments in these key areas are to helping people navigate this crisis. We have the capacity to make these investments, we just need those who have fared the best during this crisis to pay their fair share. I’m looking forward to a good conversation in the coming weeks about the actions we can take to ensure our state will emerge stronger from this challenge.
As prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket, more Minnesotans become worried about how they will afford the medications they need to live healthy lives. Earlier this week I participated in a press conference announcing my legislation to make lower-priced, non-name brand versions of common biological prescription drugs – known as biosimilars – available to more Minnesota consumers. David Sperl, PharmD, Senior Clinical Pharmacy Manager at Essentia Health joined me to discuss the importance of this legislation for Minnesotans.
I’m proud of the work we’ve done in identifying this solution – in partnership with research scientists at Essentia Health and Mayo Clinic – which will help lower drug costs for Minnesotans and give health care systems the flexibility they need to negotiate lower prices for biosimilars. This is just one solution on the table to address the high prices Minnesotans face for the medication they count on to live healthy lives. Other bills include one to allow the state to develop a prescription drug purchasing program for our public health insurance programs like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. Another piece of legislation would create a new independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help ensure prices are reasonable, justified, and affordable for consumers.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t require employers to offer paid time off to bond with a new child, care for an aging parent, or seek treatment for a serious illness. I’m proud to co-author a bill to create a statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave program in Minnesota to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of time off while receiving a percentage of their regular wages to take care of a new baby, a loved one, or themselves.
The Duluth News Tribune did a good job highlighting the importance of this legislation in this story.
Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz announced a plan to vaccinate 70 percent of Minnesotans 65 or older by the end of March. Following this, eligibility for the vaccine will expand based on underlying health conditions and risks of workplace exposure, like food processing plant workers.
Already the vaccine has proven incredibly effective in protecting our most vulnerable Minnesotans. In long-term care settings, deaths are down 97% from their November peak, and cases are down 89%. Demand continues to outpace the supply our state is receiving, but good news is coming soon with the expected approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine. If you sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector, you’ll receive a notification when you’re eligible and be connected with opportunities to receive the vaccine. In the meantime, while having plenty of reasons to be optimistic, it’s important to continue practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask around others, and getting a test if you feel you need one.
Please continue to stay in touch with your viewpoints, ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. Thank you for the honor to work as your public servant.