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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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Minnesota House of Representatives passes emergency COVID-19 investments in health care system

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — The Minnesota House of Representatives has passed HF 3980/SF 4334, which provides $200 million in investments for a health care response fund and Minnesota’s public health response contingency account.

“While each of us is working as hard as we can to decrease the risk of transmission, we must ensure our health care providers have the resources they need to take care of Minnesotans who may be afflicted with COVID-19,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “These investments are critical to addressing this pandemic and making sure Minnesotans who get sick get the care they need.”

“We’re taking a strong emergency step to help our healthcare system and Minnesotans who will need care,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “This is just the first of many issues that we will need to address in the coming weeks and months. We will continue to work together with the Walz Administration and the Minnesota Senate to help the people of Minnesota navigate this public health crisis.”

“The money that lawmakers appropriated today will help our state’s healthcare system respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), bill author and chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Division. “There are many unknowns ahead, so we are helping to ensure that our health care institutions and the dedicated health care providers who work in them have the resources they need to confront the crisis. I hope all Minnesotans will take this very seriously and help to reduce the burden on our health care system by doing everything they can to protect themselves and others from this threat.”

$150 million is appropriated to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to make grants to eligible providers for costs related to planning for, preparing for, or responding to an outbreak of COVID-19; fund the establishment and operation of temporary sites to provide testing services, to provide treatment beds, or to isolate or quarantine affected individuals, to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19; and administer the grant program. The bill defines “eligible provider” as an ambulance service; health care provider; health care clinic; pharmacy; health care facility or long-term care facility, including but not limited to a hospital, nursing facility, or setting where assisted living services or health care services are or may be provided; or health system.

Grants may be used for:

  • establishment and operation of temporary sites to provide testing services, to provide treatment beds, or to isolate or quarantine affected individuals;

  • temporary conversion of a space for another purpose that will revert to its original use;

  • staff overtime and hiring additional staff;

  • staff training and orientation;

  • purchasing consumable protective or treatment supplies and equipment to protect or treat staff, visitors, and patients;

  • development and implementation of screening and testing procedures;

  • patient outreach activities;

  • additional emergency transportation of patients;

  • temporary IT and systems costs to support patient triage, screening, and telemedicine activities; 

  • purchasing replacement parts or filters for medical equipment that are necessary for the equipment’s operation;

  • specialty cleaning supplies;

  • expenses related to the isolation or quarantine of staff (not including wages);

  • other expenses not expected to generate income for the eligible provider after the outbreak ends.

As a condition of accepting a grant, the provider must agree not to bill uninsured patients for the cost of COVID-19 screening, testing, or treatment. If a patient is out-of-network, the provider must agree to accept the median network rate as payment in full.

HF 3980 also includes an additional $50 million for the public health response contingency account, and allows MDH, in consultation with hospitals, ambulance services, emergency management, and public health agencies, to make payments from the public health response contingency account to ambulance services, health care clinics, pharmacies, health care facilities and long-term care facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, nursing facilities, and settings at which assisted living services or health care services are or may be provided; and health systems, for costs that are necessary on an emergency basis to plan for, prepare for, or respond to pandemic influenza or a communicable or infectious disease.

The Legislature also passed a resolution allowing the House and Senate to adjourn for more than three days. The House and Senate will meet in floor and committee session on an on-call basis through April 14. During this time period, the Legislature will only take up legislation on the House and Senate floors by agreement of the House DFL, House GOP, Senate DFL and Senate GOP caucus leaders.