More than 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered by pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians in our state, helping address a devastating health crisis and saving lives. Minnesotans should be able to continue to access critical care after the pandemic ends.
What’s more, by reimbursing pharmacists for these services, we can ensure patients have convenient access to care close to home delivered by a trusted pharmacist. This ensures the survival of our small independent pharmacies in our local communities. We are losing these pillars in our communities far too rapidly.
The package of bipartisan bills we introduced include:
- HF 4008 / SF 3823 (Bahner/Duckworth) will ensure pharmacists are reimbursed for health care services on par with other providers. Pharmacies are often not reimbursed or are reimbursed at rates lower than those paid to other health care providers for the same health service - putting a strain on access to health care when Minnesota is already facing a barrage of pharmacy closures. As more and more pharmacists are being asked to join the care team to administer basic common medications and maintenance medications, and are happy to help, sometimes pharmacies, even those certified and open to filling this role, are unable to bill for delivering this care in the pharmacy. I think we all agree that getting paid for their time allows more pharmacies to offer these services and become a resource for the community in a trusted setting.
- HF 4009 / SF 3940 (Bahner/Duckworth) will allow for the continuation of vaccination and point of care testing services by pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns after the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act expires. The federal emergency act gave pharmacists the authority to vaccinate patients ages 3 years and above with any FDA approved, or approved for emergency use vaccines, as well as order, administer and interpret FDA approved CLIA-waived point of care testing for diseases like Influenza, Strep-A, A1C and more. It should also be noted that more clinics and physicians have noted that during the pandemic many areas have gotten behind on basic vaccinations that are good for public health. To overcome this backlog, local trusted pharmacists can help bridge the gap to get us caught up or take pressure off clinics doing critical patient care.
- HF 2768 / SF 2678 (Morrison/Duckworth) will provide access for patients to medication administration and device placement services. In particular, this could be administering a dosage of a maintenance medication prescribed by a physician for things like diabetes, vitamin B shots, or other similar items where the patient may need assistance administering the medication or does not feel comfortable doing so themselves. This also allows these fully trained Pharmacists and Pharmacy techs to be a part of the team that is on the continuum of care to deliver the best possible patient outcomes. The bill also provides placement of devices for diabetes, like continuous glucose monitoring devices which can be tricky to place for new patients and their families. The bill builds access to care for patients in the pharmacy setting that is convenient and where they feel comfortable.
Moving Legislation Ahead of Committee Deadlines
In the Minnesota Legislature, bills need to be heard by certain deadlines in order to better have a chance of being passed into law. With the first committee deadline approaching, legislators can have back-to-back hearings on bills, and I’d like to highlight some important piece of legislation I’m either authoring or co-authoring that are moving through the process:
- Property Tax Refunds - This bill has two key goals, provide greater relief on property taxes for our seniors looking to age in place during their Golden Years and to ease the burden on working families. The bill does this in a few key ways, it raises the cap allowing for more neighbors to receive a refund. It also increases the amount of the refund. Those on the bottom of the spectrum will receive larger refunds. Finally, it also increases the deductions for our seniors. Our nonpartisan media department covered this bill here.
- Maple Grove Sales Tax Exemption - This bill seeks to exempt the newly started expansion of the North Metro Training Center from taxes on development due to the public good of the project. As you may recall, I was able to secure funding for the expansion of the facility, which is one of only three training facilities in the state for law enforcement. The facility allows for Maple Grove and our partners in Plymouth, Brooklyn Park, and other surrounding departments to train officers and complete certification requirements required under the law. This includes FBI, SWAT, State Patrol, County Sheriffs, and local law enforcement.
- Charitable Gaming Tax Rate Reductions - The bill will be up for a hearing next week in the Commerce Committee and brings together four years of work with Allied Charities. The bill aims to reduce the taxes on the receipts of Charitable Gaming Organizations. With rising operating costs, this bill allows charities like the Lions, Osseo Maple Grove Hockey Association and the Osseo Fire Department to keep more money on their bottom line for their charitable mission. Charitable Gaming is widely available at local staples like Malone’s in Maple Grove and the Osseo Legion Post 172, Duffy’s and Dick’s in Osseo in the form of paper and electronic pull-tabs.
- Equal Rights Amendment - My bill cleared its last hurdle in the Rules Committee and we are waiting on a date for it to head the House floor for a vote. You can hear more on the bill in my interview on KFAI. Most Minnesotans believe women and men have equal rights and protections under the law in the MN State Constitution, but that is not yet the case. My bill brings the question of equality to the people of Minnesota to decide via a constitutional amendment.
- Increasing Transparency - I am a co-author on the House bill that would close a loophole and prohibit a clear pay-to-play scheme that seeks to grab money from lobbyists and push transparency on influence over legislators into darkness. This is not ok and should never be permitted. You can read more about this issue here.
The State Office Building Reopens Next Week
With COVID-19 cases consistently trending downward, I’m extremely happy to share that we’re at the point where we can finally reopen the State Office Building to the public. In March 2020, we moved the vast majority of our work to remote operations, including meetings with constituents. Starting Monday, March 21, you’re now able to visit with legislators in person, though some of our work - notably committee hearings - will continue to be done in a hybrid fashion. The building will then be open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for the time being.
If you have legislative issues you would like to discuss, I want to hear from you, and I’m excited that in-person meetings at the State Capitol are once again an option. If you’d like to stop by for a meeting, please contact my office at 651-296-1761 or email@example.com, and I or our legislative assistant, Lucy, will help set something up. I look forward to hearing from you!
Your State Representative