Minnesota Legislative Session Begins

With the start of the legislative session, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) lobbyist Dave Renner, CAE, shares an update from the Capitol, highlighting the Protect Reproductive Options Act and work to improve investment in primary care.

New Legislative Session Began January 3

The ninety-third session of the Minnesota Legislature was called to order in Saint Paul on January 3, 2023, with all 201 legislators being sworn in at the Capitol. It’s the first time since 2014 that the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) party has had majorities in both chambers. 
The events at the Capitol were preceded by the swearing in of Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan on January 2. At that event, Governor Walz previewed the upcoming session saying, “Minnesotans spoke clearly this last election, and they expect all of us to get things done. The era of gridlock in St. Paul is over.” The Governor should see an easier road for his priorities following an end to years of split-government in Minnesota and a record-setting, projected $17.6 billion budget surplus, announced in December 2022. 
On the campaign trail, Governor Walz and other DFL leaders promised to protect Minnesotans’ reproductive rights, and legislation to codify the right to abortion in Minnesota statute has been introduced as HF 1/SF 1. Additional early items include federal tax conformity, coverage for paid family and medical leave and a bonding bill left unpassed from last session. Other top DFL priorities, such as health care payment reform, firearm safety and other major budgetary issues, will play out over the coming months. 
While Democrats control both bodies, they will still need to work with Republicans. With a slim 70-64 majority in the House and a 34-33 majority in the Senate, it would take only a few members to swing the vote on any issue. A challenge for leadership will be to ensure members are aligned before bringing issues to a vote.  
Both bodies also elected leadership on the first day. Following the election of Representative Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) to her third term as Speaker of the House, Hortman acknowledged the historical diversity of the newly sworn in legislature, “Today, we make history, having sworn in the most diverse group of legislators Minnesota has ever seen.” She noted that the Minnesota House swore in 35 legislators of color, including Representative Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring), who became the first woman and person of color to lead the minority caucus in the House. 
In the Senate, Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) was elected Majority Leader and Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) was elected President of the Senate. Dziedzic will be the first woman to serve as the Senate DFL Majority Leader, and Champion will be the first Black person to serve as President of the Senate. Senator Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) was selected as Senate Minority Leader. 
Three physicians—Senator Matt Klein, MD (DFL-Mendota Heights), Senator Kelly Morrison, MD (DFL-Deephaven), and Senator Alice Mann, MD, MPH (DFL-Bloomington)—were sworn in to serve in the Minnesota Senate. Klein was also selected to chair the Senate Commerce Committee, and Morrison and Mann were both assigned to sit on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where Mann, a family physician and an MAFP member, will serve as Vice Chair. 

MAFP Supports Legislation to Protect Reproductive Freedom 

The Minnesota House Health Finance and Policy Committee began its work on January 5, 2023, by hearing HF1, otherwise known as the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act.
The bill, introduced by Representative Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie), would codify the right to reproductive freedom and autonomous decisions about an individual’s own reproductive health and outlines the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive health care, including abortion.
The legislation reads, “every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health, including the fundamental right to use or refuse reproductive health care.” The bill goes on to state that “every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth, or obtain an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise this fundamental right.” The PRO Act also explicitly notes that no local unit of government may regulate an individual’s ability to freely exercise the outlined right.
In a letter to the Health Finance and Policy Committee, MAFP President Alex Vosooney, MD, stated, “The MAFP supports our patients’ rights to make the medical decisions that are best for them and supports access to all evidence-based treatments and medications, including abortion care. As these rights are being denied in some states and chipped away at nationally, it is important that the Minnesota Legislature ensure these rights here.”
The right to an abortion is protected in Minnesota following the 1995 Supreme Court decision Doe v. Gomez. However, there is nothing in Minnesota statute reaffirming an individual’s right to an abortion. If passed, the PRO Act would establish that right in Minnesota law.
The companion bill (SF1) is expected to be heard in the Senate as early as this week. 

MAFP Supports Improving Investment in Primary Care

A top priority for the MAFP is improving how we gather data on where we spend our health care dollars and increasing our investment in primary care services. To be successful in improving health status and reducing costs, we need a stronger investment in primary care. 
Senator Alice Mann, MD, MPH (DFL-Bloomington), and Representative Robert Bierman (DFL-Apple Valley) have agreed to author legislation to improve the data we collect through the state’s All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) to ensure we are also collecting non-claims-based payments. More and more health care payments are not included in a patient’s insurance claim, like value-based payments, bonus payments paid for achieving a screening goal and other quality-based payments. This legislation will require all of those payments to be reported to the APCD, and that the Minnesota Department of Health report how much of total health care payments are paid for primary care services.
These bills are expected to be introduced this week.

Coming Soon: Physicians’ Day at the Capitol

Again, this year, the MAFP is partnering with the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) on the Physicians’ Day at the Capitol, to be held Wednesday, February 8, 2023. This is a great opportunity for physicians from across Minnesota to come to St. Paul and hear from legislative leaders and meet with their individual legislators.
The MAFP will host a lunch that day for family physician, resident and medical student members, beginning at 11:00 am. Following the lunch, we will join with the MMA and other physician groups to meet with lawmakers.

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