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Financial details in omnibus health and human services finance bills get first hearing

The House relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions in mid-March, and now some committees have begun hybrid meetings — in person, but with the option of members and testifiers participating remotely.

There was another form of hybrid meeting Wednesday, when the House Health and Human Services finance and policy committees held a joint hearing to walkthrough a combined financial tracking sheet detailing supplemental budget requests in their respective omnibus bills.

The combined appropriations requested total $583.7 million in fiscal year 2023.

Specifically, the joint committee meeting considered, but took no official action on, the appropriations in HF4706, the omnibus health finance bill, sponsored by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), that’s expected to be amended Thursday by a delete-all amendment; and the omnibus human services finance bill, HF4579, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), and also expected to be modified by a delete-all amendment Thursday.

Liebling said the plan is for both omnibus bills to be combined at a future date in the House Ways and Means Committee, along with the omnibus early childhood finance and policy bill, HF4735, sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul).

Liebling said both committees are scheduled to meet separately to take testimony and consider amendments on their separate omnibus bills Thursday and plan to vote on the bills by Friday’s third, and final, committee deadline.


Human services appropriations

Schultz, chair of the human services committee, called its omnibus bill “a historic investment in health and human services,” noting that it takes many different approaches to addresses the committee’s highest priority: the health care workforce shortage.

She said that shortage would be addressed through health care training loan forgiveness programs, subsidized training, increased reimbursement rates, and higher wages to attract and maintain workers.

Social determinants of health are also funded, she said, including preventing homelessness, increasing access to behavioral health care, addressing poverty and food insecurity, and child welfare issues.

Among the human services provisions that would receive supplemntal funding in fiscal year 2023 include:

  • $35.1 million for emergency services grants;
  • $26 million to expand eligibility for a MinnesotaCare public option;
  • $10.3 million for homeless youth act grants;
  • $10.1 million for mental health loan forgiveness grants/loan forgiveness;
  • $1.2 million for a youth homelessness prevention pilot program;
  • $1.2 million for an African American Mental Health Center; and
  • $1 million for a Dental Home Pilot project.

The omnibus human services bill also includes $146.5 million for workforce revitalization for human services frontline workers that was in the governor’s supplemental budget request.


Health appropriations

“There are many tremendous provisions in this bill … that expand access to health care,” Liebling said.

She said highlights include addressing the high cost of prescription drugs, reducing lead levels in schools and residential drinking water, supporting health care workers and making that workforce more sustainable and diverse, and in building up resources to prepare for public health emergencies.

Among the health provisions that would be funded in fiscal year 2023 are:

  • $62.4 million to fund a home visiting program for families with infants;
  • $22 million to fund a health care professional loan forgiveness program;
  • $20 million to fund a Public Health Response Contingency Account;
  • $15 million for no-cost COVID-19 antigen testing and KN95 masks;
  • $11 million to fund the governor’s Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Families initiative;
  • $9 million for lead service line remediation grants and a lead service line inventory;
  • $5 million to fund the governor’s Drug Overdose and Substance Abuse Prevention initiative; and
  • $1 million to establish a Health Care Affordability Board.

The bill also includes $21.6 million for workforce revitalization of the health care workforce that was in the governor’s supplemental budget request.

Details on which of these fiscal year 2023 appropriation requests would also be funded in fiscal year 2024 and beyond are available on the combined spreadsheet.


What’s in the bills?

The following are selected bills expected to be incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus health and human services finance bills through delete-all amendments Thursday:

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