The start of the 2021 Minnesota legislative session is just weeks away. Our legislative rep Dave Renner, CAE, shares his take on what to expect for health care (and, more specifically, family medicine).
Tuesday, January 5, the Minnesota Legislature will reconvene to begin the 2021 session.
This is the first year of a new biennium, so the Legislature is required to pass a two-year budget before they adjourn by the end of May 2021.
An added challenge will be holding hearings and gathering public input during the COVID-19 pandemic, with session being mostly virtual (at least in the beginning).
A Split Legislature
Following the November elections, control of both bodies remains the same as it was in 2020, though the size of both majorities is smaller. Again, Minnesota will be the only state in the country with a split legislature—the Senate controlled by Republicans (34-31-2) and the House controlled by Democrats (70-60-4).
The Budget & Safety Net Programs
The main job the Legislature must complete is passage of a balanced budget. Recent budget forecasts have made this work a bit easier, but the state is still facing a projected shortfall of $1.27 billion for the upcoming two-year period.
The debate will be how much of this deficit will be solved through cuts to existing programs, through new revenues in the form of tax increases or a combination of both.
This is important to the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) because nearly one-third of the state’s budget is spent on health and human services. We will be working to preserve access and avoid extreme cuts to critical health safety net programs.
Pandemic Relief & Telehealth Coverage
Another major effort for the Legislature will be to respond to the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expanded coverage for telehealth and telephone patient visits has helped family physicians and patients, and the MAFP will be working to continue those coverages into the future.
Health Equity & Racism
Health equity and structural racism as a public health crisis will also be on the agenda. Minnesota continues to be among the worst states for racial health disparities.
The MAFP is committed to ensure that all policy is viewed through a health equity lens and that structural racism and discriminatory institutional practices are dismantled to make Minnesota a more equitable place where all people can thrive and have access to good health and health care.
Follow us on Twitter @MNFamilyDocs and use the hashtag #MAFPAdvocacy. We regularly post updates or calls to action about proposed legislation and advocacy efforts.
Continue to follow this blog, Advocating for Family Medicine. Throughout session, we’ll share updates on actions of interest to family physicians and their patients.
Reach out to Jami Burbidge, chief operating officer of the MAFP, and let her know you want to get plugged into advocacy.