We’re in the final days of the legislative session, and with our constitutional deadline of May 20 coming up fast, we’ll likely have a very busy weekend here in St. Paul. Leadership continues to meet in attempts to broker a deal on the framework of our state’s budget, but as I wrote in my previous update, the Minnesota Senate has yet to come to the table with a meaningful compromise on how to fund out state.
Speaker Hortman and Governor Walz continue to strive for an open and transparent end of session, which includes substantial compromise on proposals. The latest Senate offer only increases funding in areas by taking dedicated funds from health care. A breakthrough in negotiations could happen at any moment, but as I write this, the inaction of the Senate has caused the outlook for the rest of session to look hectic at best.
As negotiations continue, I wanted to highlight the differences in the House and Senate’s proposals on our Health and Human Service budget (HHS), and how we take on the struggles Minnesotans are facing with their health care.
Health and Human Services
A priority of the Minnesota House this session was to increase the access and improve the affordability of health care for Minnesotans. We’ve prioritized holding pharmaceutical companies accountable in order to reduce the costs of medications, promoting reforms to protect our elders and vulnerable adults from abuse, and addressing the health disparities prevalent in our communities. Below you can see the steps we’re taking to build a healthier Minnesota.
In contrast, the Minnesota Senate has proposed cuts to MinnesotaCare, a program that provides health care coverage to over half a million Minnesotans. The Senate’s solution to lower insurance rates includes the unsustainable practice of giving millions away to insurance companies in the hopes that this will somehow benefit consumers. Any proposal that takes health care away from Minnesotans while promoting giveaways for insurance companies in not representative of the values that we hold dear, and these differences in our health care priorities are indicative of why these negotiations can take quite some time.
Pharmacy Benefit Managers
There are thankfully some areas of health care where compromise can be found, and I’m happy to say a bipartisan, bicameral solution has been reached to lower drug prices by regulating Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM). In their role, PBMs develop and maintain lists of covered drugs (formularies) that they offer to pharmacies, while drug manufacturers give PBMs rebates to encourage the PBM to place their product on the formulary. This is done with no guarantee that the rebate will be passed on to consumers. These kickbacks give PBMs an incentive to remove less expensive drugs from formularies, and encourage companies to raise list prices.
Currently, PBMs can switch drugs whenever they can get a higher rebate – sometimes several times a year – which means doctors have to change patients’ prescriptions to medications that are more expensive, and often less effective. The bill would give the state's Dept. of Commerce licensing authority over PBMs, requires them to notify health carriers whenever an activity presents a conflict of interest, and to look out for the financial interests of their customers by seeking out deals that provide the lowest price. Smaller, community-centered pharmacies would be given flexibility in this legislation.
This bill is on its way to Governor Walz for his expected signature.
How to Contact Me
I believe our work at the State Capitol is at its best when it’s inclusive and collaborative, and I want to hear from you. You can reach me at (651) 296-9249, or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.