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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Liz Olson (DFL)

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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

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.

“Our DFL Health and Human Services budget is the result of Minnesotans being clear that they’re struggling with high health care costs and for many of them, they have barriers getting the care they need,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL – Duluth), Chair of the House Long Term Care Division). “All Minnesotans – no matter how old they are, where they live, or what background they come from – deserve quality, affordable care and this budget has people-focused solutions to ensure this can be the reality in our state.”

“Minnesota has long been a leader when it comes to health care, but unless we take action now, this status, and more importantly the wellbeing of many Minnesotans, could be in jeopardy,” said Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), the House Majority Whip. “I’m proud of Minnesotans who have given their voices to so many of the issues addressed in our House HHS budget to reduce costs, improve access, and strengthen health outcomes.”

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. This concept also 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.

The bill also contains eldercare protections championed by Reps. Schultz and Olson which addresses 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.

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.

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 step is a provision authored by Rep. Schultz to create 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.

Other components in the budget to improve the health of Minnesotans include:

  • Steps to address high prescription drug prices including a prohibition on price gouging, price transparency measures, increased transparency, and improved pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) licensing.
  • Measures to strengthen women’s health including increases in family planning access, greater access to birth control, coverage for breast cancer screenings, sexual assault prevention grants, and doula services for those with low-incomes.
  • Strategies to address health disparities including cultural competency for mental health services, funding increases for child protection in tribal communities, and grants to improve child development outcomes for children of color and American Indian children.
  • Several measures to expand child care opportunities for Minnesota families.
  • The first increase in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) in 33 years.
  • Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in Minnesota to 21.
  • Adding e-cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.
  • Coverage for periodontal disease and asthma for those with low-incomes.

After the Minnesota House and Senate approve their respective HHS budgets, lawmakers from each chamber will form a conference committee to reach agreement on a final version.