Dave Renner, CAE, our legislative rep, shares updates from the Minnesota State Capitol on legislation regarding tobacco prevention, mid-year formulary changes, postpartum health care coverage and medical cannabis.
Tobacco tax increase & prevention programs
Three bills to address tobacco addiction moved forward in the Minnesota House of Representatives last week. Many of these bills are needed with ClearWay Minnesota sunsetting its work at the end of 2021.
The House Preventive Health Division passed HF 1721 (authored by Representative Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth) that raises the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack. The bill conforms Minnesota law to the recently passed federal law related to taxing e-cigarettes and dedicates $15 million each year of the tax to the tobacco use prevention and cessation account for tobacco cessation projects, public information programs and other tobacco prevention programs. The bill also allocates $10 million to the University of Minnesota School of Public Health for tobacco prevention activities.
The House Health Finance and Policy Committee heard HF 572 (authored by Representative Kelly Morrison, MD, DFL-Deep Haven) that dedicates $15 million of the existing tobacco tax to prevention and cessation programs. None of the current tobacco tax is used for tobacco prevention programs.
The third bill, HF 904 (authored by Representative Cedrick Frazier, DFL- New Hope), prohibits the sale of any tobacco products or e-cigarettes that are flavored, including the sale of menthol tobacco. This bill passed the House Preventive Health Division and is awaiting action in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.
Limits on Mid-Year Formulary Changes
Legislation to ensure that patients who have started a drug therapy cannot be forced by their insurer or pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) to change a drug during their contract year was laid over for possible inclusion in the House Health and Human Services budget bill.
The bill, HF 58 (authored by Representative Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington), was heard in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee on March 5, 2021, where it received positive comments. It would require insurers to allow a patient who is on a medication that is working to remain on the drug for the remainder of their enrollment year, even if the insurer or PBM changes their preferred drug list during the year.
Extended Postpartum Coverage
Legislation to extend Medical Assistance (MA) coverage to 12-months postpartum received positive hearings in both the Minnesota House and Senate health committees. Current law only provides MA coverage for some new moms for 60 days postpartum.
HF 521 (authored by Representative Kelly Morrison, MD, DFL-Deep Haven) was heard in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee on March 2, 2021. The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) submitted a letter of support for the bill. The committee laid the bill over for possible inclusion in the omnibus Health and Human Services budget bill.
The Senate companion bill, SF 735 (authored by Senator Melissa Wicklund, DFL-Bloomington), was heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee on March 8, 2021. At that hearing, it was noted that federal legislation is moving to provide 85% federal matching dollars to expand postpartum coverage in MA. This new federal money greatly reduces the cost to the state of this coverage and makes it more likely to pass this year. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Senate Health and Human Services budget bill.
Medical Cannabis in smokable form
Legislation is moving in both bodies to allow medical cannabis to be sold in the raw, leaf form for smoking. Minnesota is the only state that allows medical cannabis that does not allow the smokable form.
By limiting medical cannabis to pills, oils and vaping, our program is one of the most expensive in the country because of the added cost to process the cannabis. Supporters of the bill argue that this makes medical cannabis unaffordable for many Minnesotans because insurance does not cover the product.
HF 813, introduced by Representative Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, was heard and laid over for possible inclusion in the budget bill by the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.
The Senate Companion bill, SF 1179 (authored by Senator Mark Koran, R-North Branch) passed the Senate Health and Human Services finance and Policy Committee on March 1, 2021, and is awaiting final action on the Senate Floor.