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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL)

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RELEASE: House approves compromise HHS budget with historic investments in Minnesotans’ health and wellbeing

Sunday, June 27, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Saturday, the Minnesota House approved the compromise Health and Human Services (HHS) budget following a bipartisan agreement with the Senate. The budget includes significant advancements to protect Minnesotans’ health and wellbeing after the COVID-19 pandemic, with investments and solutions to strengthen public health, enhance economic security for Minnesotans, close health inequities, and expand access to affordable child care.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis unlike anything Minnesotans have ever experienced. To help Minnesotans recover and to rebuild our health system after the past year’s profound challenges, we’ve assembled the most robust HHS budget bill in a generation,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL - Rochester), chair of the House Health Committee. “The budget includes a wide variety of investments to secure a healthier future for Minnesotans in every community. I’m excited for our legislation to receive the governor’s signature and once it’s law, to see the many ways we are able to help Minnesotans.”

After an unprecedented reliance on public health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the HHS budget significantly increases investments to strengthen public health throughout the state. The budget includes $15 million for local public health grants and $15 million under a new local public health funding distribution framework. Through solutions such as expanded Medical Assistance coverage for postpartum care, services for children with asthma, and periodontal dental services, the budget tackles a variety of Minnesota’s persistent health inequities. The budget also fixes the so-called “family glitch,” under which Minnesotans are unable to enroll in MinnesotaCare because they have access to employer coverage through a family member, even though the coverage is unaffordable. To increase cultural and ethnic diversity within Minnesota’s mental health workforce, the bill includes a variety of provisions to attract more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to the field. After many Minnesotans found telehealth valuable during the pandemic, the budget agreement expands many of these services.

“Our final HHS budget is an impressive package of solutions to improve health care, economic security, and overall wellbeing of Minnesotans,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL - Duluth), chair of the House Human Services Committee. “The legislation addresses unacceptable health inequities, helps Minnesotans live independently, and gives working families more resources to achieve financial stability. Our bipartisan agreement is the result of our ongoing commitment to help people have a healthy, strong future.”

To help Minnesotans with disabilities live independently in their communities, the budget increases funding for home care providers and a rate increase for personal care attendants (PCAs) to boost compensation to recruit and retain more Minnesotans in these critical positions. Additionally, the bill increases rates for home care nursing, intermediate care facilities and waiver rates for older adults to live independently. The bill also includes grants phasing out subminimum wage to persons with disabilities, expanding mobile crisis infrastructure and funding to recruit direct support professionals.

For many years, payments for the Minnesota Family Investment Program – which helps struggling Minnesotans and their families meet basic needs as they seek employment – have been stagnant. The HHS budget includes an ongoing cost of living increase, plus a one-time payment of $435, to help working families emerge from poverty. To help Minnesotans at risk of housing insecurity, the budget includes strong investments in emergency services grants and emergency shelter funding.

“Minnesotans deserve affordable health care,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how much Minnesotans count on our health care system. Our bipartisan budget works to address the disparities that were highlighted over the last year. It will build a better public health system by reducing racial disparities, making child care more affordable, dramatically increasing access to dental care across the state, and so much more. This health and human services budget will improve the lives and health of Minnesotans across our entire state.”

Too many Minnesota families struggle to find affordable child care, and House DFLers successfully fought to expand eligibility under the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Additional early childhood solutions in the budget include the creation of a one-stop regional child care assistance network, incentives to retain early childhood educators, and grants for child care workforce development, providers serving children with disabilities, and facility revitalization. Funding under the American Rescue Plan is used to fund many of these initiatives.

“Republican politicians at the national level and in state legislatures around the country have been on a crusade to erode the Affordable Care Act for the better part of a decade, while offering no health care plan of their own,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Access to health care should not be predetermined by your income, where you live, your employment status, or whether you have a pre-existing condition. Democrats will continue to fight for a public option, affordable prescription drugs, and equitable access to care.”

Despite growing concerns from Minnesotans about their ability to afford health care costs, including skyrocketing prescription drug prices, Senate Republicans blocked several reforms to lower costs for Minnesotans. When the House passed its original HHS budget, it included a ban on prescription drug price gouging, a direct prescription drug purchasing program, and a proposal to study a potential MinnesotaCare public option. As a result of Senate Republican opposition, the final agreement included none of the important provisions.

A spreadsheet of the investments in the legislation can be found here and a research summary of the legislation is available here. Video of the House Floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.