Communications: Advocacy News

MN Legislative Wrap-Up

Monday, May 23, 2016  
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2016 Legislative Session Ends in Chaos; Result a Mix for MAFP
By Dave Renner, MAFP Legislative Representative

As reported in all of the major media outlets the Minnesota Legislature finished its work in a very chaotic manner just short of its midnight deadline last night, Sunday, May 22. There were three major items that they were unable to complete—passage of a bonding bill for capital projects, passage of a transportation funding bill, and passage of a Real ID law. As a result, there is a possibility that Governor Dayton may call a one-day Special Session to deal with these - if lawmakers can reach a final agreement on the unfinished items ahead of time.

From the MAFP’s point of view the results of this session were mixed at best. Here is a brief summary of some of the items we were following this session. A more detailed summary of the session will follow soon.

Bills that Passed

  • The Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) was strengthened by requiring all prescribers who have a DEA number to register with the program and create an account. While use of the PMP remains voluntary, it is hoped that mandatory registration will increase the number of prescribers who use the program.

  • Pharmacists are now authorized to accept and destroy unused legend drugs from patients, including controlled substances. This is designed to reduce the number of unused drugs that may be diverted for unintended use and abuse.

  • The Legislature appropriated $1 million to rural family medicine residency programs in Duluth, Mankato, and St. Cloud. This money reinstates money that was first appropriated in 2014 but cut in 2015.

  • An additional $1 million was appropriated to the Medical Education and Research Cost (MERC) fund. MERC is used to support residency training program for physicians and other practitioners.

  • The requirement for Health Care Homes to recertify annually with the Department of Human Services for Medical Assistance payments was changed to every three years. This is designed to reduce some of the administrative burden to become a certified Health Care Home.

  • A new requirement was passed for health plans to provide notification to enrollees when there are changes to their provider networks. Health plans are required to update their website at least monthly to include changes when providers move from in-network to out-of-network.

  • The Legislature directed the Commissioner of Health to seek additional federal funds for statewide planning, coordination, preparations, and response activities related to the Zika virus. These efforts are related to public health readiness, diagnostic testing of patients, surveillance activities, and mosquito surveillance activities.

  • Additional funds were appropriated for certified community behavioral health clinics. These clinics shall provide coordination of care across different settings and provider types to ensure seamless transitions for patients.

  • Big tobacco was successful in reducing some of Minnesota’s tobacco taxes. The current automatic inflator to the tobacco tax was repealed. This inflator has resulted in the state’s tobacco tax increasing approximately 8 to 10 cents each year. The tax level on certain e-cigarette products was also reduced.

Bills that Didn’t Pass

  • The major priority to fix the medication prior authorization (PA) processes did not pass this year. The bill would have provided more transparency to patients and prescribers impacted by PA decisions, as well as reduced many of the administrative hassles caused by health plans and pharmaceutical benefit managers. It was included in the final Senate supplemental budget bill but was not accepted by the House.

  • Efforts to reinstate the 2 percent provider tax were defeated this year. The Senate held hearings on reinstating the tax that is scheduled to be repealed in 2019, but that bill did not move forward.

  • A Senate-led effort to increase MA reimbursements for primary care and mental health services by five percent was not included in the final budget supplemental budget bill.

  • Efforts to strengthen Minnesota’s childhood immunization laws did not receive a hearing in either the House or Senate.

  • An effort to weaken the state’s tanning bed law by allowing a medical exemption to the prohibition on kids using tanning beds for treating psoriasis was defeated on the Senate floor.

  • A Senate proposal to increase eligibility in MinnesotaCare to 275 percent of the federal poverty level from the current 200 percent was not included in the final bill.

  • Another Senate proposal to allow all Minnesotans to purchase MinnesotaCare as a “public option” was considered early in the Senate early session but not included in the final budget bill.

  • A Senate proposal to study moving Minnesota to a single payer system was not included in the final budget bill.

  • A House-led effort to eliminate or severely curtail research using fetal tissue at the University of Minnesota was also not included in the final budget bill.

  • While the Senate held hearings on several bills to tighten regulations on the purchase of firearms, nothing advanced in either the House or Senate.

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