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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL)

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RELEASE: Minnesota House approves HHS budget bill tackling high health care costs

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Tuesday, the Minnesota House passed the Health and Human Services supplemental finance bill on a vote of 69-64. The proposal delivers bold investments to address the high health care costs Minnesotans are facing, along with solutions to attract, recruit, and retain dedicated professionals in fields such as direct care, long-term care, and behavioral health.

“Minnesotans deserve solutions to ensure everyone can access affordable, high-quality health care when and where they need it,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), chair of the House Health Committee and bill author. “Our House DFL Health and Human Services budget targets the high costs Minnesotans are forced to pay for care, including high insurance premiums and skyrocketing prescription drug prices. We’re also committed to strengthening our health care workforce, rebuilding public health infrastructure, and other important actions to create a healthier future for our state.”

To expand affordable health care access, the budget includes the MinnesotaCare Buy-In, an option allowing individuals and families to access MinnesotaCare – the low-cost, high-quality health care program that Minnesotans have trusted for 30 years. The legislation also makes care less expensive by eliminating cost barriers for those enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. To prepare Minnesota for the future, the bill studies ways to reform health care delivery and financing.

“This is another HHS bill that makes historic investments in human services, services that help people every day—older adults who prefer to stay in their homes, rather than enter a nursing facility; people with disabilities who wish to live independently with services; and caring professionals who devote their lives providing services to those who rely on them to survive,” said Rep. Jen Schultz (DFL – Duluth), chair of the House Human Services Committee and bill author. “We are investing resources into addressing the health care workforce shortage—increasing wages for personal care assistants, funding for training to increase the health care workforce pipeline, and creating a workforce incentive fund for employee retention. When we invest in people, we all do better. When we care for one another, when we care for our community—our family, friends, and neighbors—we all do better. This HHS bill makes these investments—it invests in people.”

House DFLers are working to reduce the price of prescription drugs with creation of a commission to review and stop unjustified price increases and a prohibition on price gouging. The legislation also includes caps on co-pays for insulin and other life-saving drugs, promotes use of “biosimilars” to bring down the cost of expensive biologic drugs, and prohibits mid-year formulary changes.

To strengthen services for people with disabilities, the budget includes ongoing rate increases for the Personal Care Assistance and Community First Services and Supports programs. The budget also rebuilds Minnesota’s health care workforce through measures such as the Workforce Incentive Fund covering retention payments, post-secondary costs, transportation, and child care costs. There is a combination of strategies to support the behavioral health workforce, mental health workers, and community health workers, including grants, scholarships, and technical assistance. The legislation supports caring professionals through additional funding in the elderly waiver framework, and investments in training direct care workers through the creation of the Direct Care Service Corps.

“No family has economic security if they cannot afford the care they need. That’s why House DFLers are focused on solutions that will reduce costs and expand access,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Our budget would lower the costs of prescription drugs, help support and rebuild Minnesota’s health care workforce, make child care more affordable, and improve public health.”

The bill diversifies the health care workforce and includes several other steps aimed at achieving equity. The bill includes funding to eliminate lead in schools, child care centers, and homes, funding to raise awareness about mercury in skin lightening creams, and support for Tribal health care providers.

To better understand the impact of “long COVID,” the bill includes investments to raise awareness, develop guidance for its diagnosis, treatment, and care coordination in partnership with long COVID survivors and communities disproportionately impacted by it. Sustainable, increased funding is dedicated to rebuilding state and local public health infrastructure along with additional funding for the state Public Health Emergency Response Account.

To help Minnesotans experiencing deep poverty, the bill includes the first increase in General Assistance since 1986 and helps more Minnesotans qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The bill also delivers food support grants and improved access to food security programs within Tribal communities and community resource hubs to better connect families to services and supports. The bill improves access to Medical Assistance for people with disabilities by fixing the discriminatory “spend-down” limit.

The bill significantly increases reimbursement rates for the Child Care Assistance Program, which will allow more than 30,000 children from low-income families to access high-quality care. It also makes more families eligible for CCAP, including foster parents, custodians, and guardians. In addition, the bill continues the monthly stabilization grants that have helped providers to continue operating for the past two years. With 70 percent of these funds allocated to increase wages, the permanent grants will also support Minnesotans who do this critical work, often for poverty-level wages.

“Investments in the earliest years have the biggest payoff,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul), chair of the Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee. “But early care and learning was in deep crisis even before the pandemic – unaffordable for families, with poverty wages for those doing this critical work. The investments in our bill will ensure that parents can work, employers can grow, and communities can thrive - now and long into the future."

The bill also includes investments to strengthen housing security, including funding for emergency shelter facilities and emergency services, the Homeless Youth Act, Safe Harbor for sexually exploited youth, and transitional housing.

Video of the floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.