St. Paul, Minn.—Health and Human Services Budget Division Chair Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) unveiled budget recommendations today for programs that support vulnerable Minnesotans including children and older adults. The bill funds ongoing initiatives to address health crises in Minnesota, refines previously vetted programs, and supports highly-valued programs.
Minnesota is facing health crises in several areas, including chemical dependency treatment funding, lack of responsive and supportive services for children and families in the foster care system, limited access and funding for mental health services, and the surprise placement of estate liens on some Medical Assistance (MA) recipients’ homes. The Senate DFL proposal continues on last year’s significant investment in mental health services for vulnerable Minnesotans by increasing the number of beds available to people experiencing a mental health crisis. Focusing on the needs of older Minnesotans, the Senate DFL recommendations eliminate estate liens which have been leveraged against some MA recipients and mitigate federally mandated “spousal impoverishment” guidelines, which if not addressed could force some couples into divorce so the ill spouse could continue to receive life-sustaining treatment.
In total the proposal invests $26 million in 2017 to support children, at-risk youth, and their families; funding foster care program improvements, increased access to affordable child care, and enhanced health coverage for asthma and autism—all programs which do not see any investment in the bill rolled out by House Republicans. Other major priorities which support children and support highly valued programs expand on Safe Harbor options for victims of human trafficking, increase the funding for homeless youth and other safety net programs for at-risk youth.
“This session we have crafted a bill that goes a long way in addressing several important and time sensitive issues. We have heard from Minnesotans about the need for increased mental health funding, and we have done that. We have reformed medical estate liens so Minnesotans on medical assistance will not receive huge liens on their assets, we have cast wider safety nets for the most vulnerable in our state and we have enhanced high valued programs, that we know work, for thousands of Minnesotans. These are good investments for Minnesota. The Health and Human Services Committee does some of the most important and complicated work at the capitol. Members of the committee should be commended for their hard work and feel proud of this year’s bill,” Lourey said.
Committee member Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan):
“I am particularly proud that this bill allows for greater coverage of services provided to children with autism. While discussing this provision, the committee heard testimony from parents and the autism community that was absolutely heart-wrenching. As the chief author of this important expansion, I am pleased that these dedicated parents and their families will see some relief,”Carlson said. “By far, what we see in this committee’s recommendations is an intentional eye toward providing more and improved services to vulnerable children and families.”
Health and Human Services Budget Division Vice Chair Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina):
“The Senate HHS bill makes common sense reforms to the Prior Authorization process that will provide needed transparency to the process and to help ensure that patients are getting the medications they need in a timely manner. These changes will make it easier for patients to understand their prescription drug coverage and for prescribers to understand what medications insurance companies will cover – saving time for our health care providers and giving patients confidence that their medication will be covered by their insurance plan,” Franzen said.
Committee member Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL-St. Paul):
“This budget speaks to our belief that a truly comprehensive healthcare system cannot leave Minnesota’s most vulnerable behind. We’re committed to ensuring everyone – from seniors in our nursing homes to children in our mental health system – receives the best care out there,” said Hawj.
Committee member and Co-Chair of the Equity Subcommittee Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis):
“This bill takes on the serious crises facing Minnesotans who require services from the Department of Human Services, without pitting those communities against one another, as we are seeing the House Republicans do in their bill,” Hayden said. “We are providing services to the most vulnerable Minnesotans by investing in Safe Harbor options for human trafficking victims, housing for homeless youth, and support for children and families in the foster care system. I am especially proud of the investments which will help address one of the drivers of the achievement gap, by increasing funding for childcare providers who care for children of low income families the quality of care and services will increase available to children who are most vulnerable to entering the K12 system behind their peers,” Hayden said.
Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna):
“There are several health care reforms included in the Health and Human Services policy bill that I have authored, co-authored and supported. This bill brings reforms that not only increase choices and create competition, they take on the challenge of rising healthcare costs that families need. I have committed to continue working on these issues until we put into place changes that make sense and address the issue of affordability we are all looking for,” Jensen said.
Health, Human Services, and Housing Policy Committee Chair Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato):
“We’ve made rural health care affordability a priority because we know families in Greater Minnesota need relief. Unaffordable premiums and lack of health plan options are major problems that disproportionately affect our rural communities. To address these issues, we’ve supported rate increases for primary care and MA providers; rate increases for child care and foster care; and the establishment of the Greater Minnesota Family Residency program, which would provide grants to new and existing physician residency positions in underserved communities,” Sheran said.
The bill will be have it’s next hearing this week in the Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul)