The 2022 Minnesota Legislative Session has wrapped. Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) legislative rep Dave Renner, CAE, shares the status of MAFP priorities and what to expect next.
Legislature Adjourns; Special Session Unclear
Even though Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders agreed to a framework for use of the state’s $9.2 billion surplus, the Minnesota Legislature was unable to reach agreement on details before the Constitutional deadline of Monday, May 23, 2022. The Minnesota Senate and House both adjourned the 2022 session without passing many of the major spending and tax bills or the bonding bill, while also leaving much of the state record budget surplus unspent.
Thus far, there has not been an announcement about a special session. Governor Walz is the only person who is authorized to call legislators back. He announced that he is open to calling a special session but only with an agreement reached by both sides on the details of the major spending proposals. House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) publicly encouraged a one-day special session, and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) said Republicans are not interested.
MAFP Priorities Left on the Table
The MAFP had a number of priority issues included in the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget bill:
- Updating the state’s All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) to authorize the collection of non-claims-based payment info. Increasingly, health care is being paid for through value-based payments—those not included in an insurance claim and not currently included in the APCD. The bill’s language also directs the Commissioner of Health to report how much of health care is paid through value-based payments and how much of those payments are for primary care services.
- Limiting insurers and pharmacy benefits managers from forcing a patient to change their medications during a contract year.
- Funding for a new rural residency program for family medicine and new clinical training programs for other rural health care providers ($20 million). Grants are needed to address the growing rural health care worker shortage.
- Changing the Medical Assistance program to cover long-acting reversable contraceptives (LARCs) immediately following delivery. Post-partum LARC insertion has been shown to reduce unwanted pregnancies, yet its not paid for by Medical Assistance.
While there was bipartisan support for many of the above, there was not agreement by the conference committee before adjournment. All of these issues could still be considered if there is a special session; otherwise, they will have to be pursued again next year when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Health and Human Services Policy Items Pass
While the conference committee on the omnibus HHS bill did not reach agreement on how to spend the allocated $1 million, both House and Senate members agreed to passage of certain policy items. These items primarily have no cost and were amended into a separate bill, HF 4065, a bill recodifying long-term care consultation services. That bill passed both the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor for his signature.
The policy bill included:
- Language to ensure patients with chronic pain continue to have access to needed, ongoing opioids. Efforts to reduce the overuse of opioids have resulted in patients being forced to taper their opioid dosages, even when it is not in their best interest. The language in the HHS policy bill balances the goal of reducing opioid overuse with the acknowledgement that some patients with chronic pain need ongoing access to these medications.
- Language prohibiting discriminatory practices regarding access to organ transplants. Specifically, the language states a person’s race or ethnicity cannot be a criterion used to determine a person’s eligibility to receive an anatomical gift or organ transplant. There are many factors that go into deciding who qualifies for an organ transplant, and the need for transplants often exceeds the supply of organs. This results in many patients never receiving the organs they need to survive. The final language helps ensure that those decisions are based on medical factors and not a patient’s race or ethnicity.
- Language reducing the number of criminal background checks needed for health care workers. Currently, a health care worker is required to have a criminal background check to be licensed in the state and must also receive a separate background check if they participate in programs licensed by the departments of health or human services. The bill allows one background check to be used for both purposes.
Additional provisions in the HHS policy bill include language that:
- modifies the definition of palliative care to better reflect that palliative care is not synonymous with end-of-life care.
- establishes an opioids, substance use and addiction subcabinet within the Department of Human Services.
- permits licensed pharmacists to inject certain prescribed medications and place drug monitoring devices.
All items with a state cost were not included in the policy bill. Their outcome is dependent on if a special session is called.
Mental Health Bill Passes
On May 22, 2022, both chambers passed HF 2725—the mental health care package. This bill provides over $10 million each year for mental health services.
The bill funds:
- $9.6 million over two years to expand the use of mobile crisis service teams. These teams are made up of mental health professionals and practitioners who provide psychiatric services to individuals within their own homes and at other sites outside the traditional clinical setting.
- $2 million for school-linked mental health grants to increase accessibility for children and youth who are uninsured or underinsured and improve the identification of mental health issues for children and youth. The bill would appropriate money for resources for mental health services in schools and includes incentives to encourage and ease barriers to entering the mental health profession.
- $1 million in grants to establish or expand programs focused on improving the mental health of health care professionals. The grants are available for health care systems, hospitals, nursing facilities, community health clinics, federally qualified health centers or health professional associations.
- $1.6 million over three years for a pilot program in Ramsey County to establish mental health urgency rooms for patients under the age of 26 as an alternative to the use of emergency rooms. The entity must be able to perform a medical evaluation of their youth and accommodate the patient for up to 14 days.
The mental health package was also sent to the Governor for his signature.