Last week, I shared information regarding a report published by the nonpartisan legislative auditor. The report detailed their investigation into Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP) following news reports that fraud within the program totaled $100 million.
The report was unable to substantiate $100 million in alleged fraud, however they did note that it is clear that fraud within the program exceeded the $5-6 million that has been prosecuted to date. In fact, the report found that CCAP fraud investigators at the Department of Human Services (DHS) "generally agree” that fraud is pervasive in the program.
This week the Inspector General at DHS, Carolyn Ham, was placed on investigative leave as a result of the auditor’s report.
I was pleased to see Ms. Ham placed on leave and consider it a good first step in cleaning up this program.
Nevertheless, we need to go further in efforts to address fraud, waste, and abuse in this program and others and I urge the Democrat Majority in the House to take this report seriously and pass legislation that implements controls to roll back fraud.
A follow up report is due in early April, so stay tuned on more information regarding CCAP in the weeks ahead.
Health Insurance Market
Last week, the Senate passed legislation to extend reinsurance for another three years. Reinsurance is a program that was originally passed in 2017 and was designed to hold down soaring health insurance premiums in the individual marketplace.
After two years, it is clear that this plan worked as intended. In fact, this year, all five carriers on the individual market lowered premiums for 2019, with average rates dropping between 7.4 percent and 27.7 percent.
Unfortunately, House Democrats have refused to move legislation that would reauthorize this program. If Democrats refuse to pass this bill, Minnesotans on the individual market will see their premiums skyrocket.
The proposals that have been put forward by the DFL and Gov. Walz do nothing to reduce premium costs. In fact, their plans would cost the state more than simply extending the reinsurance program while doing nothing to bring down rates.
I hope that House DFLers will acknowledge that reinsurance has been incredibly successful, and work with the Senate to extend it. If we do nothing, rates will skyrocket, and the individual market will likely collapse.
Stay tuned on this as it is likely to be a major sticking point throughout the rest of this year’s session.
A week ago, the House unanimously approved legislation that assists farmers that have experienced barn collapses as a result of heavy snow. As of late last week, nearly 50 agricultural buildings had suffered roof collapse, with most of those being dairy structures.
The legislation that was approved allows buildings damaged by heavy snow and roof collapse to be eligible for zero-percent loans from the Rural Finance Authority.
I am pleased that Republicans and Democrats were able to come together on this important legislation.
In addition to last week’s disaster legislation, I was proud to stand with my colleagues in the Senate in urging House Democrats and the Governor to support a bill that would replenish Minnesota's Disaster Contingency Account. This account provides funding to cities and counties that have suffered damage from flooding and other natural disasters. The legislation would set aside $20 million to ensure that communities and counties can access these funds when disaster strikes.
With record snowfall this winter, experts have warned that communities across Minnesota are at risk of substantial flooding this spring.
We need to set aside funds now so they don't get tied up in end-of-session politics. We want funds available immediately to help communities all across Minnesota respond to flooding as quickly as possible.
Staying in Touch
That’s all for this week’s update. Please be sure to contact me to share any questions or concerns you may have about anything related to state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-8237 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be great to speak with you!
Have a great weekend,