Dave Renner, CAE, our legislative rep, recaps recent movement at the Minnesota State Capitol related to drug prices and formularies, childhood immunizations, MinnesotaCare expansion, mask mandates, hospital pricing and tobacco cessation funding.
Limits on Drug Prices and Formulary Changes
Legislation, authored by Representative Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington), that would require drug companies to post their prices and limit increases to those prices passed its first committee hearing on February 3, 2021.
MAFP Priorities: The bill, HF 58, also includes language to limit insurers and pharmacy benefit managers from changing a drug formulary or preferred drug list for a patient who is currently using a medication that is working for them. It also requires insurers to use a real-time prescription benefit tool that will inform prescribers what drugs are covered at the time the prescription is being written. Adoption of these items will ensure that patients receive the medications they need in a timely manner without physicians or clinic staff being required to spend hours on the telephone to ensure a patient’s coverage.
The committee passed the bill and re-referred it to the House Health Care Finance and Policy Committee.
The House Preventive Health Policy Division held an informational hearing on childhood immunizations.
The hearing provided committee members background on how successful the childhood vaccine programs have been in reducing childhood illness and disease and addressed much of the disinformation related to vaccine safety that has led to hesitancy.
Legislation to expand eligibility for the MinnesotaCare program, HF 11, authored by Representative Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), passed the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee on February 9, 2021, and was sent back to the House Health Care Finance and Policy Committee.
The bill increases the income eligibility levels for MinnesotaCare from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 400 percent, over three years. It also allows small employers to purchase MinnesotaCare to provide coverage for their employees.
The bill will now be discussed as part of the larger budget bill for Health and Human Services.
Legislation to pass into law Governor Walz’s executive order related to mask wearing passed the House Health Care Finance and Policy Committee on February 10, 2021.
Authored by Representative Sydney Jordan (DFL-Minneapolis), this bill—HF 604—is designed to allow the legislature to be engaged in the response to COVID-19 and includes the same stipulations and penalties as the executive order.
A number of physicians and public health experts testified in strong support of the bill. Wearing masks remains an important way we can all work to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Following the hearing, the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Health and Human Services budget bill.
Hospital and Surgical Center Pricing
Legislation to modify the current federal requirement for hospitals to post their prices for consumers passed the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee on February 3, 2021.
The bill, HF 57, also creates a similar requirement for ambulatory surgical centers and clinics that have revenues of more than $50 million per year from imaging, diagnostic lab services or orthopedic or ophthalmologic surgical procedures
The author, Representative Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington), hopes that by requiring reporting of these services in a standard format that consumers will be able to use this information when shopping for services. The type of non-hospital services included are limited to those that are not emergent, where patients may be more interested in comparing prices.
The bill passed the Commerce Committee and was re-referred to the House Health Care Finance and Policy Committee.
Tobacco Cessation Funding
With the scheduled end of ClearWay Minnesota, the non-profit organization that was funded out of the tobacco lawsuit settlement funds, Minnesota needs to fund ongoing tobacco cessation services. Representative Kelly Morrison, MD (DFL-Deephaven), authored HF 569, which appropriates $15 million each year to the Commissioner of Health to pay for these services.
The bill was heard in the House Health Care Finance and Policy Committee on February 8, 2021, along with another Morrison bill to dedicate ongoing tobacco settlement funds to a fund for anti-tobacco activities.
Both bills were supported by the committee and laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Health and Human Services budget bill.