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Minnesota Legislature

House passes omnibus health care bill, sends it back to Senate

The omnibus health and human services policy bill includes provisions focused on public health and health care, championed by both DFL and Republican legislators from both the House and the Senate.

“It will help improve health outcomes for Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), who sponsors HF3727/SF3560* with Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake).

The House passed the bill, as amended, 80-54 Saturday night. It now returns to the Senate, where it was initially passed 67-0 May 7.

The omnibus health and human services policy bill focuses on practical changes, many of which are intended to improve access to care and treatment. Others better align existing statutes with current practice, delete obsolete language, repeal obsolete sections, incorporate federal requirements into state law, and correct drafting errors.

It does not touch on human services initiatives, which are covered in a separate piece of legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday.

 

Notable provisions include language that would:

  • authorize pharmacists to prescribe self-administered hormonal contraceptives, nicotine replacement medications, and opiate antagonists used for overdoses;
  • eliminate unnecessary administrative barriers that impede physician’s assistants’ ability to practice in Minnesota;
  • require health care providers to give patients their own health information and records within 30 days of a written request;
  • permit, rather than require, medical cannabis manufacturers to operate eight distribution facilities in the state;
  • require the Department of Health to conduct at least one unannounced inspection of each medical cannabis manufacturer per year until a state-centralized, seed-to-sale system is implemented;
  • allow patients receiving veteran’s disability or railroad disability to pay a reduced fee when enrolling in the state’s medical cannabis program;
  • allow telemedicine evaluations to suffice for prescribing drugs for the treatment of erectile dysfunction;
  • make changes to last year’s opioids law, converting the “account” into a “fund,” changing some terminology, and modifying council procedures and term limits;
  • update laws related to Medical Assistance and Minnesota Care to reflect current practice;
  • clarify that the cost of a private room in an assisted living facility should not be considered a medical expense that can be deducted from income prior to paying for the cost of institutional care;
  • add advanced practice registered nurses and podiatrists to the list of providers who can prescribe prosthetic and orthotic devices;
  • allow Medical Assistance to pay for services for persons who have been screened for breast or cervical cancer though a wider array of programs;
  • clarify that Medical Assistance may cover medical services that are unrelated to clinical trials;
  • require health carriers to reimburse multi-step dental procedures, even if the entire procedure is not completed because the patient moves, doesn’t show up, changes coverage, or loses coverage;
  • allow the Board of Pharmacy to work directly with the University of Minnesota to establish a central drug repository program, instead of undergoing a request-for-proposal process;
  • authorize pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines when one becomes available; and
  • allow pharmacists to change patients’ medications to a therapeutically equivalent drug, should the prescribed medication be unavailable due to a shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amendments adopted by the House Saturday include one offered by Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina) that would remove age-related macular degeneration from the list of medical conditions that make someone eligible for participation in the state’s medical cannabis program.

The condition was added last year, but medical professionals have expressed concern that people will use medical cannabis instead of seeking more effective treatments proven to slow the progression of the disease. The commissioner of health could add the condition back in later, if needed, Edelson said.

Another adopted amendment was offered by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and would reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II drug – versus a Schedule I drug – and allow for the use of raw cannabis by patients in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program and improving access by providing a cheaper alternative to more processed products, he said.

Changes made by the Senate include an amendment made to the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, signed into law earlier this year, which would include tribal identification cards as a valid form of identification for accessing both an urgent-need 30-day supply of insulin and the ongoing manufacturer patient assistance programs.


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