Minnesota House of Representatives


State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

For more information contact: Matt Roznowski 651-296-8875

Posted: Jun 26 2014 10:05AM
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Legislative update: How the legislature built a healthier Minnesota

Dear neighbors,

As a member of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee during the 2013-2014 legislative session, I had the opportunity to shape policies to build healthier families, healthier communities and a healthier Minnesota.

Those policies are paying off and delivering positive results, but there is more work to do in the years ahead if we want to build on our progress.

Here are a few of the major health-related accomplishments over the past session and priorities for the future.

Skin cancer prevention:

I was proud to author and pass legislation that addresses an alarming increase in young women diagnosed with melanoma due to the rising use of indoor tanning equipment.

My bill, more commonly known as ‘Tan-Free Teens’ (House File 2177), prohibits children under 18 years old from using commercial tanning equipment, which exposes skin to harmful levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

A wide-range of medical and public health organizations backed the legislation, including the American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota Public Health Association and Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians.

My work on this issue earned me the honor of being named Legislator of the Year by the American Cancer Society Action Network.

Better care for senior citizens and people with disabilities:

After years of painful funding cuts and stagnant wages, the legislature boosted funding for nursing homes and Minnesotans who care for our seniors and people with disabilities living at home and in community-based settings.

Both funding increases are important steps toward providing a better quality of life for our seniors and people with disabilities as well as providing better wages for the Minnesotans who care for them.

With more and more Minnesotans within the Baby Boomer generation beginning to retire, additional improvements for long term care must be a major priority for our state over the coming decades. It is important that we provide high quality care for the people who spent their lifetimes forging a trail of prosperity for the rest of us.

Reducing the number of uninsured Minnesotans:

MNsure helped cut the number of uninsured Minnesotans nearly in half. That means the rest of us won’t have to pay for the uncompensated care of individuals that previously lacked insurance who went to emergency rooms when they had serious health problems.

After MNsure’s first enrollment period, 95 percent of Minnesotans now have health care, the second highest insured rate in the entire country. In addition, our premium rates are the lowest in the country, far lower than neighboring Wisconsin which chose to implement a federal ‘one-size-fits-all’ exchange.

And thanks to common sense consumer protections like banning insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men, denying care to people with pre-existing conditions and capping the amount of care you can receive in a year or your lifetime, more Minnesotans have access to the care they need and deserve.

Advancing health equity:

Despite being one of the healthiest states in the nation, a February 2014 report from the Minnesota Department of Health found significant, persistent health disparities among populations of color, stemming from social and economic disadvantages and a lack of educational opportunities. These disparities are unacceptable and are a barrier to greater prosperity for our state overall.

One example from the report is that African American and Latino women are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage breast cancer.

Minnesota was among the first states to have a legislative mandate to reduce health disparities and we need to keep making this issue a priority in future years. Our work to advance health equity is ongoing through the Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative (EHDI) grants, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and the recently established MN Center for Health Equity.

Unsession’s impact on health:

Governor Dayton’s ‘Unsession’ initiative, which I like to refer to as cleaning our state’s closet of laws and various policies for government agencies, eliminated antiquated language from state statutes and provided an opportunity for the Department of Health to reflect on its overall mission and purpose.

For example, the legislature updated the Health Care Administrative Simplification Act, something that had not been done in 20 years, with many provisions having been outdated. Housekeeping and clarifying changes include establishing uniform billing forms, requirements and companion guides.

Stay in touch:

If you have any questions, feedback or ideas, I would love to hear them and continue working with you to build a healthier Minnesota.


JoAnn Ward
State Representative, District 53A

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