(St. Paul) – Senate Republicans on Tuesday passed a comprehensive health and human services budget that emphasizes caring for the elderly, people with disabilities, and families with children; restores integrity to embattled public assistance programs; addresses Minnesota’s child care access and affordability challenges; and improves support for people battling mental health crises.
Senate Republicans made a series of difficult choices to shape the fastest-growing area of the state budget into a sustainable resource Minnesotans can rely on for the foreseeable future by eliminating inefficiencies and targeting state resources toward those who truly need care. The bill increases spending by $1.6 billion from the last budget, bringing Minnesota’s total health and human services general fund commitment to more than $15 billion. It passed with bipartisan support.
In a notable contrast with Gov. Walz and House Democrats, Senate Republicans funded Minnesotans’ priorities by making responsible decisions with existing taxpayer dollars, rather than raising the health care provider tax that sick people pay at every doctor and hospital visit. Eliminating this tax will reduce costs for everyone, particularly those who need the most care.
“We have the difficult challenge of balancing care and access for the sick, elderly, and poor, but we also have a spending trajectory that is unsustainable,” said Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “This budget reinforces Minnesota’s commitment to those who need help the most, uses taxpayer dollars responsibly, and demands state agencies clean up waste within their programs.”
“Minnesotans are generous, but they also expect their tax dollars to be used responsibly,” said Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), chair of the Human Services Reform Committee. “That means investing in care for the truly vulnerable, like adults and children with disabilities and the frail elderly. It also means rooting out fraud so our citizens can be confident that every dollar is well spent.”
The bill keeps promises Republicans made early in sessionto address concerns regularly expressed by Minnesotans:
The Republican budget cares for the vulnerable: Republicans focus public assistance on caring for those who need it most.
- Protects coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
- Implements elder care protections, such as letting families place an electronic monitor in the room of their loved ones and funding for more staff at the office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care to work with residents, families, and providers to identify issues and rapidly respond to concerns and complaints.
- Funds Safe Harbor programs that provide counseling, housing, and other resources to help sexually exploited youth break free of the cycle of abuse.
Increases reimbursement rates to encourage PCAs to take on more high-need patients.
Implements a substance use disorder demonstration project to study improvements to abuse and addiction treatment.
- Requires health plans to cover 3D mammogram technology as preventative care for at-risk women.
- Establishes the insulin assistance program for diabetics who are struggling to afford insulin by providing them a free 30-day supply of insulin while they determine their eligibility for other programs to meet their on-going needs.
The Republican budget protects nursing homes and long-term care facilities:
- Protects nursing homes from devastating cuts in Gov. Walz’s budget.
- Provides better reimbursement rates to long-term care facilities if least 50% of their residents are in the elderly waiver program.
- Provides more flexibility to nursing homes and long-term care facilities to complete necessary renovations, repairs, and building expansions.
The Republican budget improves access to affordable child care:
- Removes burdensome, excessive, and unnecessary regulations that drive up child care providers’ cost of doing business.
- Establishes the Ombudsperson for Child Care Providers, a new independent office to assist providers with licensing concerns, questions, and complaints. The ombudsperson would also make recommendations on child care improvements and operate a telephone line to answer questions from providers.
- Establishes a Family Child Care Task Force to review current licensing requirements, propose regulatory improvements, and identify alternative business models.
- Prevents patients from being overcharged for insulin by banning healthcare plans from pocketing rebates for themselves.
The Republican budget helps those struggling with mental health issues:
- Expands allowable services for children’s mental health grants.
- Funds the statewide Suicide Prevention Hotline.
- Provides mental health services grants for pre-partum and post-partum mothers.
- Requires health plans cover mental health services at an equivalent level to physical health.
- Increases funding for the rural mental health education loan forgiveness program.
The Republican budget restores integrity to the troubled CCAP program:
- Reforms the program to include enhanced attendance accountability, permanent disqualification from receiving DHS assistance if an individual is found to be defrauding a program, and a requirement that large providers purchase surety bonds to protect against fraud.
- Empowers counties to investigate fraud and requires state and county licensors to report suspected fraud.
- Imposes a July 1, 2020 deadline for DHS to redesign CCAP to address public concerns about program integrity.
- Repeals the troubled CCAP program beginning in Fiscal Year 2021, giving DHS a firm deadline to get their house in order.
- Eliminates the office of the Inspector General due to its failure to properly investigate CCAP, and instead creates an independent office to increase accountability and remove conflicts of interest.
The Republican budget demands program integrity and eliminates waste: Republicans are holding the Department of Human Services accountable by requiring them to tighten their belts and crack down on waste and abuse.
- Aligns Medical Assistance adults and MinnesotaCare benefits with Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards.
- Requires new IT programs to meet measurable progress benchmarks to reverse the trend of recent failures.
- Prohibits MNsure from taking on new IT projects until their system is functioning as it was designed to work from the beginning.
The Republican budget protects life: Republicans are taking a strong position in defense of the unborn after years of Democrat encroachment on pro-life values.
- Funds the Positive Alternatives program, which provides mothers in crisis with resources to help them care for their newborn child, including support services, counseling, and supplies.
- Prohibits the abortion of unborn children capable of feeling pain and commissions a report on late-term abortions in Minnesota.
- Requires abortion providers to post ‘Woman’s Right to Know’ on their website, which provides information about fetal development, abortion alternatives, and other resources.
- Allows expectant mothers the opportunity to view an ultrasound of their child prior to having an abortion.
- Provides grants for Neonatal Palliative Care training, as well as reliable support for families with children with complex medical needs through Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC).
The Republican budget provides transparent, simple information for patients:
- Adds robust prescription drug transparency and accountability requirements, so consumers can figure out how to get the best price for their medication.
- Requires patients receive a full, layman’s description of charges to give them a complete understanding of their cost of care.
- Creates a grant program to address outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases to inform parents and the public.