ST. PAUL – By a vote of 70 to 62, the Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a proposal that will fund the state’s health and human services (HHS) needs over the next two years. State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Nelson Township) supported the measure.
“Health and human services programs have always been among the most costly for state government,” Torkelson said. “This bill takes advantage of many reforms that will make the HHS system more accountable and sustainable in the future.”
Torkelson said HHS spending in Minnesota increased 109% between 2001 and 2011, justifying the need for major reform. He added that while it spends much less than projected over the next two years, the bill does spend an additional $520 million when compared to our last budget cycle
The plan includes many incentives for high cost providers to become more efficient while maintaining quality, gives counties more freedoms to decide how to serve their own residents based on local circumstances, and promotes health care homes and community based services with several pilot and demonstration projects.
But most important, according to Torkelson, was that the bill protects rural nursing homes.
“When we crafted this bill, our top priority was our nursing homes,” Torkelson said. “Facing a projected $5.1 billion budget deficit, it is nearly impossible to give nursing homes a raise in this economic climate, but I was pleased we were able to freeze nursing home rates at existing levels while providing them increased regulatory flexibility.”