Legislature heads into the final stage of session

It has been a hectic, but productive start to the 2013 Legislative Session. This session we have expanded Medical Assistance, continued and improved MinnesotaCare funding and created one of the best health care exchanges in the nation. In addition, both the House and Senate have passed most major budget bills into conference committee. These bills collectively invest in quality early childhood, K-12 and higher education opportunities as well as protect our most vulnerable citizens and the workers who care for them.

On Tuesday, Governor Dayton announced the names of the seven member MnSURE board that will help manage health coverage for roughly 1.3 million Minnesotans. Six of Minnesota’s top health care experts will be joining Human Services Department Commissioner Lucinda Jesson on this board. They will work with the Legislature and state departments to offer individuals and small businesses a way to shop for health insurance and compare coverage on an apples to apples basis.

The main topic MnSURE will address is how Minnesota will offer support to small businesses. The state will be playing a role to ensure their employees have access to quality health care. This is a benefit Minnesota will be offering that the federal exchanges will not be able to implement and we have received positive reviews from business owners.

In another piece of good news, we recently heard back from the federal government on a matter of great concern for our counties. We have heard from some county officials worried about the potential one-time costs associated with increased enrollment and eligibility. We now have a fix from the federal government. They are going to provide 75% federal dollars to support eligibility work at the county level rather than the historic 50% match. This will more than offset any additional costs for this ramp-up activity.

I am proud of the creation of MnSURE and I am looking forward to the continued work on the program. There is still much to be done, but the end result will be more Minnesotans with access to affordable quality health care.

With this good foundational work behind us, we will be moving into conference committee portion of session. Most of the major budget and tax bills from the House and Senate are now in conference committee and we are working hard to work out differences and find compromise.

As chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee most of my focus will be on the health and human services finance bill. Both the House and Senate were able to mitigate cuts to our most vulnerable citizens, and the workers who care for them, even with the difficult budget targets we were given.

The Senate bill increases payment rates for Medical Assistance, critical access dental providers, child care workers and long-term care and waiver providers. It also makes several investments in health care and mental health initiatives. This includes reforms to MinnesotaCare by providing better access to affordable health care for an additional 120,000 low-income Minnesotans.

It will be a busy final two weeks of session that could lead to some tense moments at the Capitol. Combining two bills is never an easy task, but I am confident that we will find good compromises and create an even better bill for the state.

I encourage you to contact me with advice or concerns you may have. My office number is (651) 296-0293 and my email address is sen.tony.lourey@senate.mn.

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Senator Tony Lourey
Tony Lourey represents District 11, which includes portions of Carlton, Kanabec, Pine and St. Louis counties in the northeastern part of the state.

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