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Health panel approves supplemental budget bill; next stop, ways and means

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee passed a $43 million supplemental health budget bill Friday on a party-line vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), HF4571, as amended, now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Whether the bill is financially unbalanced is a matter of opinion.

“This bill is significantly out of balance already,” said Rep. Danny Nadeau (R-Rogers), urging support for his amendment that would have delayed the planned phaseout of critical access mental health reimbursement rate add-ons for certain services by one year to Jan. 1, 2028.

“This cut at this time is the wrong thing,” he added.

At least two of his party colleagues echoed his sentiments about the bill being unbalanced throughout the hearing.

Liebling, the committee chair, disagrees. “This bill is not out balance,” she said, referring to an earlier committee chair who was notorious for passing “fictitious” health budget bills out of committee.

Amendments adopted by the committee would:

  • require HMOs to be nonprofit, domestic corporations through an amended version of HF3529;
  • prohibit cannabis flower, cannabis products, and hemp-derived consumer products from being labeled and packaging as having a flavor other than the natural taste or smell of cannabis unless the cannabis or hemp plant name includes a descriptor of a fruit, flavor, or food term;
  • prohibit as of Jan. 1, 2025, prior authorization of oral buprenorphine to treat substance use disorders, pediatric hospice services provided by a licensed hospice provider, neonatal abstinence treatment programs operated by pediatric pain or palliative care subspecialists, and USDA-approved drugs for stage four advanced metastatic cancer or associated conditions consistent with clinical practice guidelines and certain outpatient mental health or substance use disorder treatments, antineoplastic cancer treatments, immunizations, and preventive services and screens for women; and
  • direct relevant state agencies and departments to develop three care delivery models as alternatives to commercial managed care plans. One model would have to be a direct payment system for individuals who receive services through a fee-for-service system, county-based purchasing plans, or county owned HMOs. “This is a big deal,” Liebling said.

Amendments that were not adopted would have:

  • deleted provisions that would have, from Jan. 1, 2026, disallowed health plans from:
    • prohibiting health care providers from retrospectively denying or limiting coverage of a health care service for which prior authorization was not required unless there is evidence that the health care service was provided based on fraud or misinformation; and
    • denying or limiting coverage of a health care service that the enrollee has already received solely based on lack of prior authorization, if the service would otherwise have been covered had the prior authorization been obtained.
  • enacted the No Patient Left Alone Act. It would have required hospitals, nursing homes, and boarding care homes to allow patients or residents to have a support person of their choice be physically present while they are receiving health care services, and in end-of-life or near end-of-life situations, to make all efforts to allow the patient or resident to have all support persons they request present, in groups of six or less at a time with no age restrictions.

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