Last week, Senator Matt Klein, MD (DFL-Mendota Heights), gave an impassioned speech at the legislature, sharing the realities of caring for COVID-19 patients and reiterating the need for adequate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and increased testing. Hear Senator Klein’s speech.
The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians continues to support Governor Walz’s executive orders to stay at home and limit non-essential medical services until we have the testing in place to properly track COVID-19.
Under its new “normal,” the legislature continues to only act on bills that have been agreed to by all four of the legislative caucuses. Our legislative rep Dave Renner, CAE, provides updates on an insulin relief package, additional COVID-19 relief and reimbursement for Child and Teen Checkups.
Insulin Relief Package Signed into Law
A multi-year effort to provide relief for diabetics who cannot afford insulin passed by a wide bipartisan margin and was signed into law by Governor Walz on April 14, 2020. The new law is named the “Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act” for a young man who perished after trying to ration insulin because of its high cost.
HF 3100 establishes two separate programs to make insulin available to low-income individuals AND those with high drug expenses. The first program establishes an emergency insulin program for individuals facing urgent needs, while a second program makes affordable insulin available for a full year. Eligible individuals must be Minnesota residents, uninsured and/or not eligible for MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance, and those with high drug costs. The bill caps the cost of a month of emergency insulin at $35, while the monthly cost of the longer-term program is capped at $50.
The bill has been a source of significant debate and controversy going back to last session, where an effort to pass legislation failed when the House and Senate couldn’t agree upon the funding mechanism for the program.
Notably, the law uses pharmacies or mail-order delivery to eligible patients (earlier versions of the Senate bill used physician offices as distribution points).
Additional COVID-19 Relief Measures Passed
The House and Senate quickly passed a fourth COVID-19 relief package with strong bipartisan support. The bill contains dozens of provisions intended to provide assistance for a range of industries, including healthcare, transportation and more.
HF 4556 requires Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare to cover COVID-19-related testing for both enrollees and individuals without insurance. The law also adds to the definition of telehealth services provided over the phone. These services are now required to be covered and paid at the same-level as an in-person visit.
In addition, the bill appropriates an additional $1.2 million to Second Harvest Heartland, a nonprofit that provides food for low-income Minnesotans.
Child & Teen Checkups Reimbursement
The MAFP is among groups leading an effort to modify reimbursement for Child & Teen Checkups (C&TC), given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are requesting that the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) fully reimburse clinics for C&TC visits delivered via telemedicine, despite the fact that some required services cannot be completed without a physical exam.
Several states have modified their reimbursement methodology to give clinics the full reimbursement for these telehealth visits, with the expectation that clinics will follow-up to deliver those services and diagnostics otherwise required. DHS, the physician groups argued, has this authority, thanks to an executive order issued by Governor Walz earlier this month.
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