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

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RELEASE: Minnesota House approves new Health and Human Services Budget

Saturday, May 25, 2019

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Early Saturday morning, the Minnesota House approved the final, bipartisan compromise version of the Omnibus Health and Human Services budget that protects health care for Minnesotans, including the funding for 1.2 million people’s health care.

“House DFLers have worked all session to ensure all Minnesotans can get the health care they need for a price they can afford. This budget protects health care for more than a million Minnesotans,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), Chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Division. “Senate Republicans blocked very important initiatives to strengthen health care in Minnesota, including provisions to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. I remain committed to solutions to decrease cost, increase access, and improve the health of Minnesotans.”

Facing a June 30, 2019 sunset, House DFLers were successful in maintaining the funding stream for the state’s Health Care Access Fund. This revenue – a tax on health care services enacted 27 years ago – has funded MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance, and other health programs. House DFLers were also successful in maintaining dental and vision coverage for low-income Minnesotans, and the budget makes the first increase in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) in 33 years.

Senate Republicans refused to consider a variety of solutions from House DFLers to address high health care costs, including direct premium discounts to consumers, choosing instead to extend the state’s reinsurance program, which provides handouts to insurance companies. The OneCare Buy-In option, along with the program’s dental and prescription drug benefits which would use the state’s buying power to reduce costs, also met Republican opposition.

Too many Minnesotans struggle with the high cost of prescription drugs, and they’ve shared their stories of how a lack of needed medication has had deadly consequences in some cases. Republicans halted legislation to prohibit prescription price gouging or require price transparency. Despite bipartisan support Senate Republicans also refused to allow the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act to become law. Named after a resident of Richfield who died when he was forced to ration his insulin due to cost, the measure would allow people with diabetes to access an emergency supply of insulin if they can’t afford to fill their prescription. No Minnesotans life should be at risk because medications cost too much and DFLers will continue work to lower the price of insulin and other lifesaving medications.

Minnesota’s HMOs hold over $6 billion in reserves, much of it public assets and money meant for health care services. The HHS budget includes a requirement that nonprofit HMOs must use their net earnings to provide health care, and extends a moratorium on conversions from non-profit to for-profit HMOs until 2023. Republicans, however, stood with insurance companies by refusing to enact strong oversight measures for HMOs transferring funds to for-profit enterprises, leaving charitable assets meant for health care at risk of corporate raid.

House DFLers successfully fought back Senate Republican efforts to cut 30,000 children from the state Child Care Assistance Program. A lack of affordable child care presents an enormous economic challenge for many Minnesota families, and the HHS budget protects funding for child care assistance. It also includes significant program integrity measures proposed by House DFLers to prevent the misuse use of funds.

The contents of the legislation can be accessed here, and a non-partisan summary is available here. A spreadsheet of the bill’s fiscal contents is available here.