Today on the Senate floor, Senator Roger Reinert attempted to amend the omnibus Health and Human Services Finance bill to restore funding to Medical Education Research Costs (MERC) for family medicine residency programs in Greater Minnesota.
Earlier this week, $73 million in health care cost savings was returned to state federal taxpayers. This money comes from a voluntary one percent cap on 2011 profits agreed to last year between Commissioner of Human Services Lucinda Jesson, HealthPartners, Medica, UCare, and BlueCross BlueShield. Of the $73 million, $36.5 million of the savings went towards Minnesota’s general fund with $13 million of it left unallocated.
Of the unallocated money, Senator Reinert’s amendment would have appropriated $6.4 million towards MERC funding. If the amendment had passed, the federal government would have matched the appropriation dollar for dollar.
Last year MERC funding was cut extensively, leaving family practice residency programs in Duluth, St. Cloud, and Mankato to shoulder the burden. The Duluth Family Medicine Residency Program provides full-spectrum training for family medicine doctors. Programs like these are critical to placing family medicine doctors not only in Greater Minnesota.
“I’m very disappointed that we could not add this funding,” said Senator Reinert. “Family practice programs around the state are on the edge of fiscal stability. A loss of even one of these programs is a blow to health care in Minnesota.”