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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL)

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RELEASE: Minnesota House Expected to Approve New Health and Human Services Budget

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Minnesota House Expected to Approve New Health and Human Services Budget

House DFL budget would lower costs for Minnesotans, hold Big Pharma accountable, give doctors and patients more control over care

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House is expected to approve a new Health and Human Services budget today. House Democrats’ HHS budget would help ensure that all Minnesotans can access the high-quality, affordable health care they deserve. It makes prescription drugs more affordable, ends taxpayer handouts to insurance companies, and expands coverage options and ensures care remains available for low-income Minnesotans.

A fact sheet with more information is available for download here.

“After years of insurance companies and Big Pharma controlling the health care of too many Minnesotans, today House DFLers are moving to ensure everyone can access the care they need,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Division. “Costs for health care services, insurance premiums, and prescription drug prices are out of control. Through a wide array of solutions, our HHS budget addresses these and other problems to strengthen health care in Minnesota.”

The House DFL HHS budget preserves the funding source for the Health Care Access Fund, which enables innovation in care and provides access to care for more than one million low-income Minnesotans. ONEcare, an idea proposed by Governor Walz, is included in the budget, which offers Minnesotans the opportunity to purchase an insurance plan with a provider network and benefits similar to MinnesotaCare. ONEcare includes a plan to align prescription drug benefits for all state health coverage programs and uses the state’s purchasing power to reduce drug prices. The budget also includes a streamlined structure for dental coverage.

“All Minnesotans deserve access to affordable health care,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “The House DFL budget ensures every Minnesotan will be able to afford their health insurance premiums and actually get the care they need when they need it.”

To address high premiums, Minnesotans who purchase their health insurance through a private plan in the individual market would receive a 20 percent direct premium discount. Meanwhile, Republicans have worked to continue handouts to insurance companies with no accountability or guarantee of lower premiums. For some employer-insured workers who find family members without health insurance, the budget fixes the so-called “family glitch” with the Affordable Care Act. It also reduces costs for parents who buy-in to Medical Assistance to get services for a child with disabilities.

The House DFL HHS budget contains significant new accountability measures for HMOs. In 2017, Republicans took the unprecedented step of allowing for-profit insurance companies to operate in Minnesota. One provision DFLers are taking to address this creates medical loss ratio requirements in the individual, small employer, and large group markets. Depending on the type of plan, at least 80 or 85 percent of premiums earned must be spent on health care services. If an HMO fails to meet this requirement, consumers would receive direct rebates. The bill also prohibits HMOs from using its earnings for any purpose other than providing comprehensive health care. Additionally, the budget strengthens network adequacy to ensure health plans provide real access to health care.

“Republicans have no plan to reduce health care costs for Minnesotans, and are attempting to divide us by injecting racist attacks and extreme anti-choice rhetoric into what should be a debate about making health care more affordable for everyone.” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “DFLers are committed to making affordable health care a reality no matter where you live or what you look like.”

As prescription drug prices skyrocket, the House DFL’s HHS budget takes bold action to ensure Minnesotans can access the medications they count on. For example, it includes a prohibition on drug price gouging, increases transparency, and improves pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) licensing. The budget also allows Minnesotans to access an emergency supply of insulin if they can’t afford to fill their prescription.

After years of progress, youth smoking is actually increasing again. To address this, many communities throughout Minnesota have increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The House DFL HHS budget enacts this statewide. Additionally, it adds e-cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

The House DFL’s HHS budget addresses our state’s unacceptable health disparities. It increases funding for the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) for the first time in 33 years. It also invests in cultural competency for mental health services, increases funding for child protection in our tribal communities, and includes grants to improve child development outcomes for children of color and American Indian children. Women’s health is strengthened through increases in family planning access, greater access to birth control, coverage for breast cancer screenings, sexual assault prevention grants, and doula services for Minnesotans with low-incomes. The proposal also ensures mental health parity, as well as periodontal disease and asthma coverage for those with low-incomes.

The House HHS budget incorporates work of the House Early Childhood Division, including measures to strengthen child care for Minnesota families. The budget increases funding to move nearly 2,000 families off of the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) waiting list and an increase in the reimbursement rate for providers. Loans through First Children’s Finance to expand child care facilities are included in the budget, as are grants through Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now (REETAIN) to provide incentives for child care professionals - among the lowest-paid workers - to remain in the industry.

The budget also includes accountability measures for the CCAP, including enhanced and clarified requirements for attendance, billing, and recordkeeping, greater transparency in funding to individual providers, and streamlined evidence collection and proof when wrongdoing is suspected.

The bill also contains improvements to eldercare, addressing abuse, assault, neglect and other maltreatment in Minnesota’s assisted living facilities and nursing homes. These reforms include new licensing requirements, a prohibition on deceptive, misleading, and aggressive marketing practices, protections against retaliation against residents, and clarifications of residents’ civil rights.