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Health conference committee

Published (4/25/2008)
By Patty Ostberg
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Differing health care inflation rates and how to spend General Fund dollars are keeping the Health Care Reform Conference Committee at odds.

Members reviewed HF3391, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), and SF3099, sponsored by Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls), April 24 and have yet to come to terms on provisions or how to fund the overall health care reform the bill proposes. Both bodies presented their policy provisions and funding mechanisms.

Each is based on differing inflation rates to account for increased state program enrollees and overall health care costs. The rates were provided by the Health and Human Services departments.

While the inflation rates differ, both proposals use health care home models to manage state program enrollees with chronic diseases.

Berglin noted the Senate had an agreement with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to not provide for additional qualifying enrollees in MinnesotaCare without first having cost- containment measures. Huntley responded that the House never had such an agreement. The House does include expansion by increasing MinnesotaCare enrollees who would qualify under federal poverty guidelines.

HF3391 would fund the changes through the Health Care Access Fund and shift costs to the General Fund in later years. Concerns have been raised about shifting costs that future Legislatures would then be tied to for allocating money. SF3099 would use Health Care Access Fund money to create a health improvement fund that would recapture saved funds for small-business health plans and health care homes.

Berglin said that if General Fund money is to be used to fund programs in future years, the Senate has ideas on how it should be spent. “I don’t think things like this are helping us get any closer together” on a compromise, she said.

Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) suggested that the departments work on the inflation numbers over the weekend, so the conference committee can iron out funding provisions next week.

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