Our legislative rep Dave Renner, CAE, shares an update on the status of Minnesota’s special session.
Governor Tim Walz called the Minnesota Legislature back for a special session on June 14, 2021. Agreement on the final budget bills has yet to be reached. Many believe the legislature will be in session for at least another week to finish their work. The final deadline for the legislature to pass all of the budget bills (and avoid a partial government shutdown) is June 30, 2021.
Among the bills still in negotiation is the health and human services budget. Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, and Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), chair of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, have been exchanging offers since the legislature adjourned on May 17, 2021. There have been no public meetings to discuss these offers, resulting in little transparency as to what is included in the bills and what is not.
The following are three areas of negotiation that the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) has been following closely:
COVERAGE FOR TELEHEALTH, INCLUDING AUDIO-ONLY SERVICES
Both the House and Senate bills have expanded coverage for telehealth services, but the specifics of each bill are different. The MAFP is working to ensure the final coverage allows patients to receive services from their home and the coverage includes audio-only services provided over the telephone. Preliminary indications are that this coverage will be included in the final bill; however, there is still discussion of potentially sunsetting the coverage for telephone services in 2023. This is being proposed because it reduces the cost of the expanded coverage and there is desire among some policy makers to have more data on whether telephone-only coverage provides the same quality of care.
LIMITS ON INSURERS/PHARMACY BENEFIT MANAGERS FROM CHANGING MEDICATION COVERAGE DURING A CONTRACT YEAR
Another provision the MAFP is following is limits on the ability of insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to change coverage for medications patients are using during the contract year. This provision is included in the House bill but not the Senate bill.
EXPANSION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE COVERAGE FOR PREGNANT PERSONS TO 12-MONTHS POSTPARTUM
Both sides have agreed to expanding Medical Assistance coverage for pregnant persons to 12-months postpartum. Current law only provides coverage for 60 days. This is an important effort to address health disparities.