MN Legislative Update: Wins for Primary Care, Firearm Safety & Paid Leave

Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) lobbyist Dave Renner, CAE, shares an update on the legislative session.

The Minnesota Legislature is set to adjourn on May 22, 2023. With the time left in session, the bulk of the work is on finalizing the state’s budget and reconciling differences between the Senate and House in conference committees.

Work continues on the Health and Human Services budget as well as firearm safety legislation, a no-cost primary care study and paid family and medical leave.

Health & Human Services Conference Committee

Many of MAFP’s legislative priorities are being addressed in the Health and Human Services (HHS) Conference Committee. The ten members of the HHS Conference Committee are working to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bills. 

MAFP priorities in the HHS bills include:

  • Updating the All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) to ensure that all payment information is tracked, including non-claims-based data. It also directs the Minnesota Department of Health to provide a report on how much of current payments are spent on primary care services. This language is included in both bills and is expected to be adopted.
  • Extending insurance coverage for audio-only telehealth for two more years. Without the bill, audio-only coverage is scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2023. 
  • Prohibiting insurers and pharmacy benefit manufacturers from changing the formulary of a drug during a patient’s contract year once a patient has started on the medication. This is included in the Senate bill and not the House bill.
  • Increasing investment in health care workforce programs. The House bill provides funding for a new rural family medicine residency program and increased funds for physician loan forgiveness. The Senate bill limits its health care workforce investments to nursing and mental health worker training. 
  • Expanding access to affordable health coverage. Both bills expand eligibility for MinnesotaCare, provide coverage for non-documented Minnesotans, provide new subsidies to encourage Minnesotans to purchase coverage with lower deductibles and expand MinnesotaCare to allow Minnesotans to purchase MinnesotaCare through what is referred to as a “public option,” beginning in 2027. Prior to implementation, the Commissioner of Human Services is required to ensure an adequate provider supply and to perform additional actuarial analysis on the new proposal.  

Firearm Safety Legislation

The MAFP has been a strong champion for firearm safety reform. Gun violence is a public health crisis that demands action.

  • According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, firearms were the leading method of suicide in the state, accounting for 69 percent of all suicide deaths in Minnesota.
  • Firearms are now the number one cause of death for children in the United States.

On May 10, 2023, the Judiciary and Public Safety Budget Conference Committee finalized their work on an omnibus bill that includes two firearm safety policies:

  • universal background checks for firearm exchanges
  • authorization of extreme risk protection orders, otherwise known as “red flag” laws 

This legislation will implement universal background checks for firearm sales and transfers, including most private firearm transactions. Additionally, the bill permits law enforcement and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms if a person poses a significant danger to themselves or others by possessing a firearm. 

The final bill received approval on May 16, 2023, and is now off to Governor Walz for his signature.

No-Cost Primary Care Study

The omnibus commerce budget bill includes a feasibility study on a proposal to offer free primary care to Minnesotans, conducted by the Department of Commerce. The bill allocates $318,000 each year for the next two years to the department. Private and public insurers would still cover and pay for primary care services, but there would be no cost-sharing requirements. The department will report back to the legislature with the results of the study.

The omnibus commerce bill also requires all health plan companies offering coverage for treatment for alcoholism, mental health or chemical dependency to provide reimbursement for the benefits delivered through the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model. The Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model is an evidence-based, integrated behavioral health service delivery method which includes a formal collaborative arrangement among a primary care team consisting of a primary care provider, a care manager and a psychiatric consultant. It includes the following elements: care directed by the primary care team, structured care management, regular assessments of clinical status using validated tools and modification of treatment as appropriate.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Both the House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to offer a paid family and medical leave program for Minnesotans.

SF 2 (Senator Alice Mann, MD, MPH, DFL – Edina) / HF 2 (Representative Ruth Richardson, DFL – Mendota Heights) creates a program that would provide up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement for family leave and up to 12 weeks of medical leave. The program will be administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The benefits and premium cost will be effective July 1, 2025, and will cost the state $668.3 million to seed the program, which is primarily funded through a payroll tax increase and employee premiums.

The conference committee has already met and worked out the different versions of the bill earlier this week. Governor Walz has said he would sign the provision if passed by the legislature, which would make Minnesota the twelfth state in the nation to enact a paid family and medical leave program.

Of note: With the rapid pace of the end of session, as legislators work to meet deadlines, information may have changed since this was posted.

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