Strengthening Consumer Protections & Lowering Costs (Commerce)

Consumer protection prevents fraud and abuse and keeps money in Minnesotans’ pockets. This session, Senate DFLers passed several measures that put into place long-overdue consumer protections to keep prescription drug costs in check, help students across the state navigate student loan debt, prevent predatory criminals from victimizing Minnesotans, and move the state toward eliminating costs for primary health care.

Prescription Drug Affordability Board

Excessive price hikes on medications Minnesotans count on to be healthy are unacceptable. Bottom line, prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. The commerce budget creates a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to review and limit how much Minnesotans pay for high-cost drugs and prohibits drug manufacturers from price gouging.

Minimum Markup on Gasoline Repeal

Minnesota currently has a law that requires gas stations to sell gas for 8 cents more than what they paid for it. The Commerce budget repealed the prohibition of below cost sales of gasoline which allows gasoline to be sold at the actual current delivered invoice or replacement cost – saving Minnesotans money at the pump.

Cost-Sharing Caps

The commerce budget caps co-pays for prescription drugs to treat chronic diseases, including insulin, Epi-Pens, and more at $25 (or less) for one month’s supply, and co-pays for medical supplies to $50 per month.

Catalytic Converter Theft

In 2022, State Farm reported seeing a 33% increase in catalytic converter theft claims with the average cost to replace a stolen converter at $2,600. In March, Senator Marty’s bill that creates necessary safeguards to fight this rapidly growing crime was passed and signed into law. The bill prohibits the possession of a detached catalytic converter with a few narrow exceptions and provides new penalties for individuals found with an illegally acquired detached catalytic converter. The bill also adds requirements for scrap metal dealers when purchasing catalytic converters, including marking a catalytic converter with the vehicle identification number of the vehicle it was taken from.

Payday Lending Cap

Payday lenders are stripping wealth from communities that can least afford it. The commerce budget helps individuals break away from the cycle of predatory lending that is built into payday loans by capping interest rates on short-term loans while developing a character-based small-dollar loan program.

Price Gouging Prohibition

Most Minnesotans come together to help their neighbors during a crisis. However, our current consumer protection statutes are not consistent with this shared value. Minnesota is an outlier as just one of just 13 states without a law to protect consumers against price-gouging practices during an emergency. The commerce budget creates a necessary consumer protection that prohibits retailers from increasing the prices of essential goods and services when a public emergency is declared by the governor.

Merger Requirements & Ownership of the U of M Medical School

Data shows that healthcare consolidation hits rural and lower-income communities the hardest, where quality healthcare access and affordability have been ongoing problems that existing federal and state regulations have proven inadequate in properly addressing. This session, Senator Wiklund authored a bill that passed and was signed into law during the last week of session to establish new consumer protections to define a clearer framework for reviewing healthcare mergers and transactions.

Preventative Care

In September 2022, a district court ruled that components of the Affordable Care Act that allow individuals to access certain preventative services at no cost were unconstitutional. The Commerce budget puts into state law that insurers cover at no cost to Minnesotans, preventative procedures ranging from cancer screenings to medication to prevent the spread of HIV.

Mental Health Support and Affordability

There is a growing mental health crisis in Minnesota and insurance coverage and access to mental health supports continues to be a top priority for Senate DFLers. The Commerce omnibus creates a Mental Health Parity and Substance Abuse Office at the Department of Commerce and expands insurance coverage requirements for services at psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

Did not pass:

Sports Betting Legalization

The bill to legalize and regulate sports betting made it through four senate committees this session. The DFL-led bill would have given exclusive gaming rights to Minnesota’s 11 Indian tribes. Executives with the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Lynx also signed a letter supporting the bill’s approach of partnering with the tribes. However, the bill failed to garner the support of Minnesota’s two horse racing tracks with very little time left in the legislative session, and it did not pass through the full Senate.

Jess Yeganeh