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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Robert Bierman (DFL)

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Lawmakers introduce legislation protecting the future of Hennepin Healthcare

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), Rep. Robert Bierman (DFL – Apple Valley), and other members of the Minnesota House introduced bipartisan legislation, HF 5442, to update the law governing the Hennepin Healthcare System (HHS). The bill’s introduction comes amid concerns of potential action by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners to dissolve the HHS Board of Directors and retake full control of the system. HHS’s flagship facility is Hennepin County Medical Center, home to the region’s largest Level One trauma center and the state’s second-largest teaching hospital.

“Employees at HCMC have legitimate concerns about staffing levels, insurance costs, and workplace and patient safety, and we recognize the desire to see changes. However, these issues aren’t unique to one facility,” said Rep. Liebling, chair of the House Health Committee. “However, even a threat that the current board may be dissolved creates instability that could put the system’s ability to serve the community in jeopardy. There are significant systemic problems across the health care spectrum that we must work together to address. Concerns about potential sudden changes in governance must be put to rest.“

“HHS is an absolutely vital part of Minnesota’s health care system,” Rep. Bierman said. “This legislation aims to ensure that any change in its governance doesn’t compromise the quality of service that it provides to the community.” 

In addition to managing HCMC, HHS is also home to the Poison Control Center, which receives hundreds of thousands of calls per year from across the state and is a national leader in mental health and addiction services.

The system’s current governance structure – led by a board comprised of community members and two county commissioners – was implemented in 2007 to ensure public accountability, stable medical leadership, and healthcare administrative expertise. The legislation introduced today would restrict the county board from dissolving the HHS board except in case of malfeasance following a formal investigation. The bill outlines a series of steps including notice, identification of the specific acts of malfeasance, and an assessment of the implications of the action, including on programs, services, and continued access to health care by the community.

The proposed law would not diminish the county's decision-making authority; rather, it would establish procedural safeguards. Additionally, the bill enables the HHS board to hire separate legal and government relations personnel.

The legislature will work collaboratively with Hennepin County leadership to refine the language to promote stability for HCMC while not infringing on the Hennepin County Board’s important oversight responsibilities.

The bill – with 13 authors from both parties – has been referred to the Health Committee. An informational hearing is expected next week.