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HHS conference committee report passes House, Senate

Rep. Tina Liebling, chair of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, explains the conference committee report for HF2128 on the House Floor May 17. Photo by Andrew VonBank
Rep. Tina Liebling, chair of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, explains the conference committee report for HF2128 on the House Floor May 17. Photo by Andrew VonBank

A pared-down, policy-only omnibus health and human services finance bill — still totaling 520 pages — received legislative support.

By a 77-57 vote, the conference committee report to HF2128 was passed Monday. It is on its way to the governor after the Senate did the same on a 66-1 vote.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), who co-chaired the conference committee with Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), said the bill is "good, bipartisan work."

"The way that this bill impacts peoples' lives is just so profound," added Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Mpls).

The bill does not include any spending proposals, but it does include dozens of mostly noncontroversial policy provisions.

Among them are ones that would:

  • change how Hennepin County Medical Center gets paid through Medical Assistance, which Liebling said is important because of federal changes that could impact the hospital's ability to function;
  • prohibit pharmacy benefit managers and health carriers from barring pharmacies from discussing drug acquisition cost and reimbursement information with patients. PBMs could also not prohibit pharmacies from discussing reimbursement information with a health carrier;
  • change who may obtain a certified birth or death certificate;
  • prohibit health plans that provide coverage for organ transplants from denying coverage to enrollees based on a disability;
  • require health plan companies to approve or reject applications for health care provider credentialing within 45 days of receiving complete applications;
  • update the mental health uniform service standards, which Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth) said would make it easier for providers to provide high-quality care without so much paperwork;
  • remove prenatal substance use reporting requirements for certain professionals providing prenatal, postpartum and other health care services;
  • allow people who receive home- and community-based waiver services to return to their communities without reassessment if they temporarily enter residential treatment programs;
  • provide parental notification of contested case hearings for appeal of maltreatment determinations and a parental right to file written statements and attend and participate in hearings;
  • extend and clarify the work of the Governor's Council on Age-Friendly Minnesota; and
  • exempt food served at fundraisers, community events or fellowship meals conducted in the building or on the grounds of a faith-based organization from certain state rules, provided conditions related to worker or volunteer training are met.

Debate over medical marijuana

Monday's debate focused on proposed changes to Minnesota's medical marijuana program. The bill would allow medical marijuana to be sold in plant form, instead of just as a liquid, pill or in a vaporized form. It would also modify pharmacist consultation requirements and allow distribution to people in cars.

Gomez said the provisions are about making the medical marijuana program more affordable, calling it almost "totally inaccessible," in its current form to people with low incomes.

Rep. Tony Jurgens (R-Cottage Grove) added that many people turn to the black market for the drug because of the high costs of medical marijuana.

But Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) said the bill is leading the state down the path to outright marijuana legalization. He said any efforts to move toward legalization should be dealt with in a separate bill.

Last week, the House passed a standalone recreational marijuana bill on a 72-61 vote.

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