Health & Human Services Budget & Telehealth Passage

Our legislative rep Dave Renner, CAE, provides an update on the Minnesota House passage of the Health and Human Services budget bill and the Minnesota Senate passage of the telehealth bill.

Minnesota House Passes Health & Human Services Budget

Following 11 hours of floor debate, and 30 attempted amendments on April 26, 2021, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its omnibus Health and Human Services budget bill 70-62. It was a straight party-line vote with all Democrats supporting and all Republicans opposing. Because no Republicans voted for the bill, that means there will be no Republicans on the conference committee.

The 893-page bill, HF 2128, allocates $348.5 million of new general fund spending in fiscal years 2021-2022 and $300.1 million in fiscal years 2023-2024 for the state’s health and human services programs.

In addition to funding safety net programs, the House bill also:

  • Expands coverage for telehealth services for both public and private insurance programs: The language allows telehealth to be provided at a patient’s home, covers telephone-only services and maintains the requirement that payers must reimburse the same for telehealth as they do for in-person services. Two issues that must be addressed is a delayed effective date for the expanded coverage of January 1, 2022, and a sunset of the telephone coverage on June 30, 2023.
  • Limits the ability of insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to force a patient to change a medication they are currently using during the enrollee’s contract year.
  • Expands postpartum coverage for mothers on Medical Assistance from 60 days to 12 months.
  • Directs the Commissioner of Human Services to do actuarial and financial analysis to develop public health option proposals, one of which includes expanding eligibility for MinnesotaCare.
  • Includes price transparency language that will require hospitals, surgery centers and clinics that do more than $50 million per year in radiology, orthopedic surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, oncology or anesthesia to make publicly available a list of their standard charges.

During the House floor debate, many amendments were offered but most were not adopted:

  • There were a number of amendments offered in opposition to requiring vaccines that were either defeated or ruled out of order, including prohibiting government or businesses from requiring citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, prohibiting the use of vaccine passports and adding a religious exemption from receiving any type of vaccine.
  • There was also an amendment offered to create a new licensing requirement for facilities that perform abortions. Supporters argue that they should be licensed just like we license stand-alone birthing centers. Opponents argue that there is very little risk to the woman with abortions, so licensure is unneeded. The amendment was ruled out of order.

The Senate is expected to act on their Health and Human Services budget bill on April 29, 2021.

Starting next week, a 10-person conference committee will begin meeting to work out the differences between the bills. They will need to complete their work before the May 17, 2021, adjournment date.

Telehealth Bill Passes Minnesota Senate Floor

The Senate telehealth bill, SF 1160, passed the Minnesota Senate floor on April 27, 2021, with a unanimous bipartisan vote—67-0. Like the House bill, the Senate language expands coverage for public and private payers to cover telehealth from a patient’s home and telephone-only services.

Where the two bills differ is the Senate bill has an effective date of July 1, 2021, for most coverages, and it sunsets telephone coverage for public programs only on June 30, 2023. The House sunsets telephone coverage for all payers.

Included in both bills is a directive to the Commissioner of Human Services to study the impacts of telehealth, including telephone-only coverage, access, quality and health equity. The study will also look at costs related to telehealth coverage and whether payment structures need to be modified.

The Senate telehealth language is also included in the Senate omnibus Health and Human Services budget bill and differences will be worked out as part of the conference committee for that bill.

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