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Lieutenant Governor Flanagan Highlights Health Care Plan, Hears Health Care Concerns from Minnesotans

In meeting at small business, state leaders highlight proposals to expand health care options, lower prescription drug costs and improve dental access

2/22/2019 1:09:27 PM

[ST. PAUL, MN] - Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan heard from Minnesotans who have experienced health care challenges in a listening session today in Minneapolis. The meeting, held at independent book seller Moon Palace Books, was one in a series of sessions Commissioners are hosting around the state to share information about proposals in Governor Tim Walz’s Budget for One Minnesota. Small business owners and their employees are among the many who struggle to have adequate health care coverage. Approximately 349,000 Minnesotans currently have no health insurance – and many have been priced out of health coverage. Roundtable participants shared their personal stories about being unable to afford health care coverage or the rising costs of their prescription drugs, going without doctor visits due to high deductibles, and the frustrations some experience as health care professionals trying to serve all Minnesotans.

“Every Minnesotan should be able to access care without worrying about going bankrupt,” Lieutenant Governor Flanagan said. “We need to address the health care challenges so many Minnesotans face every day, including a lack of comprehensive coverage, skyrocketing prescription drug costs and a shortage of dental care.”

Lieutenant Governor Flanagan was joined by Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey, who outlined health care proposals in the budget, known as ONECare MN. The proposed changes provide additional health care options, encourage stability in the individual market and make health care more affordable and accessible throughout the state.

“We know that when people have the health care they need they do better at school, at work, and are stronger contributors in their communities,” Lourey said. “ONECare MN offers a multipronged, measured approach to improve health care coverage for Minnesotans.”

"My three kids are insured but my husband and I are not, because we cannot afford insurance on the private market,” said Sarah Piepenburg of Minneapolis, owner of Vinaigrette, a natural goods store based in Minneapolis. “We forgo care, medication and treatment, which is especially hard for me because I have chronic asthma. My family is one illness or accident away from losing everything we have — our home, our business and our livelihood."

"I cannot adequately meet the dental needs of my rural and small-town patients given the state’s current funding for dental programs,” said Le Center Dentist Dawn Stavish. “This deeply frustrates me personally and professionally when the people I help at the Le Center food pantry, see on the street and worship with on Sunday morning I cannot see in my dental clinic for reasons beyond our control."

“We have allowed health care costs – especially the price of prescription drugs – to balloon to the point where they threaten the economic security of everyone over 50 in our state,” said AARP Minnesota Director Will Phillips. “Governor Walz’s budget helps to address both the current challenges that limit people’s access to care and seeks to drive down costs in our health care system. No one should have to live in a state where it is too expensive to stay healthy.”

HEALTH CARE

Minnesotans lack affordable and comprehensive health coverage options. Approximately 349,000 Minnesotans currently have no health insurance – and far too many have been priced out of health coverage, living just one injury or illness away from bankruptcy. Rising prescription drug prices are driving up health care costs and forcing many Minnesotans to make impossible choices between buying prescriptions, paying rent or putting food on the table.

Every Minnesotan deserves access to quality health care at a price they can afford. That’s why Governor Walz’s budget includes funding to extend low-cost coverage to thousands of farmers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs. The Governor’s budget provides every Minnesotan with an additional health care option, encourages stability in the individual market, and makes health care more affordable in Minnesota.

IMPROVE OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Provide a 20 Percent Health Insurance Premium Subsidy
The Governor will take immediate action by creating a subsidy program to reduce by 20 percent the monthly premiums for Minnesotans who receive their insurance through MNSure. This subsidy will be applied directly against a consumer’s premiums. This proposal provides relief to Minnesotans with incomes over 400 percent of the federal poverty level do not qualify for the federal premium tax credit which helps lower the costs of health insurance premiums. Up to 80,000 people could participate in the program, reducing the out-of-pocket costs of their health insurance premiums.

Establish a Health Insurance Tax Credit
The Governor’s proposal establishes a State Based Health Insurance Tax Credit to help ensure Minnesotans on the individual market pay no more than roughly 10 percent of their income on health care. This proposal also provides relief for consumers who do not qualify for the federal tax credit or other state-based health coverage programs. Minnesotans will be able to qualify for the credit beginning with plan year 2021 coverage. Almost 50,000 Minnesotans could be eligible to receive the State Based Health Insurance Tax Credit and see a reduction in their health insurance premium costs by 2023.

Provide a Health Care Buy-In Option
Governor Walz’s budget creates a health coverage option for Minnesotans statewide by having the Minnesota Department of Human Services offer a comprehensive platinum-level buy-in product in Minnesota’s individual market called ONECare. This buy-in option will have a provider network and benefit set similar to the MinnesotaCare program, including dental and vision benefits and behavioral health services, which is broader than what is currently available in the market. After an initial startup investment, consumer premiums will pay the full costs to the state for the program.

INCREASE ACCESS TO COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE

Maintain the Health Care Access Fund
Governor Walz’s proposal maintains the Health Care Access Fund by repealing the sunset provision for the Provider Tax which would otherwise expire at the end of 2019. This proposal increases Health Care Access Fund revenues by $992 million in the FY2020-21 biennium. The Health Care Access Fund provides essential health care coverage through the MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance (MA) programs and supports public health activities through the Minnesota Department of Health. Funding from the Health Care Access Fund will support the Health Insurance Premium Subsidy and the State Based Health Insurance Tax Credit – new programs which will target Minnesotans who currently pay full price for their health insurance on the individual market. Repealing the sunset provision for the Provider Tax maintains essential health programs for thousands of Minnesotans and provides stable funding for Minnesota’s innovative health policy initiatives that promote access to health care, improve the quality of care, and contain health care costs.

Ensure Consumer Choice and Low-Cost Options
Governor Walz’s budget ensures choice and low-cost options for Minnesotans by offering silver- and gold-level buy-in products in any region of the state where the individual market fails to provide options. These market failures – determined by the Minnesota Department of Health – include regions of the state with no product offerings. This approach ensures carriers still have a space in the private market while also ensuring that Minnesotans, regardless of where they live, have access to affordable, comprehensive coverage choices.

Leverage State Purchasing Power to Negotiate Prices and Manage Costs
No one should be forced to choose between medications and basic needs like rent, food and other necessities. Governor Walz’s budget brings down prescription drug prices, increases transparency and ensures access to comprehensive drug coverage statewide by aligning prescription drug benefits for all state health coverage programs and buy-in products to better leverage the state’s purchasing power. It also ensures that regardless of the coverage program, people have access to needed medications with more consistent choices, less disruptions, transparent processes and less burden for health care providers.

Address Minnesota’s Disparities in Dental Health
Dental care is essential to overall health. The Governor’s proposal creates a simpler, more efficient and equitable model for purchasing dental benefits by establishing a common administrative structure across all state health coverage programs and buy-in products and increases dental provider rates. This streamlined structure for dental benefits helps dentists serve all patients in their community, improving access to dental care for Minnesotans.

ADDRESS THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Promote Culturally Competent Services
Conventional behavioral health interventions have not yielded the same outcomes within the American Indian population as they have for others. However, traditional healing for American Indians has been very successful. Governor Walz’s proposal focuses on improving access, coordination and referral processes for traditional healing, and includes a multi-generational, multi-disciplinary approach to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Increase Access to Life-Saving Medication For Opioid Overdose Death Prevention
Governor Walz’s budget provides funding to increase access to naloxone, a medication used to prevent opioid overdose deaths. It can be administered via nasal spray or intravenous injection, and, if given in time, naloxone reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Additional funding provides an increased ability to promote and expand access and training, which will save lives.

Engage Local Communities in Prevention
The Governor’s budget provides funds for grants to local communities to develop and expand the opioid pilot prevention projects best suited to their populations. Similar pilot programs are successful in Greater Minnesota, including one spearheaded in Little Falls and currently reaching eight other areas of the state. Among other successes, the program resulted in a reduction of more than 600,000 opioids prescribed to patients in 2017.

Expand Access to Opioid Treatment and Services
The Governor’s budget calls for $965,000 in FY2020 and $965,000 in FY2021 and each subsequent year to expand access to opioid treatment and services to incarcerated Minnesotans. These funds will be used to provide pre-release planning services and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) within the department’s existing substance abuse treatment programs. Additionally, the budget proposes $365,000 each year for three clinical program therapists and one clinical program director to provide comprehensive pre-release planning services, connect them with community-based services upon release, and follow up to track success.

STRENGTHEN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Provide Mental Health Services for More Students
Untreated mental health conditions can be a significant barrier to learning and educational success. The Governor’s proposal is recommending the expansion of evidence-based school-linked mental health grants to serve approximately 7,000 more K-12 students. Grantees may deliver school-linked mental health services via telemedicine in order to expand access.

Expand Community Behavioral Health Clinics
Substance use disorder and mental illness commonly go hand in hand, but it is rare in Minnesota to be able to get treatment for both conditions in the same place. Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) are an innovative model of care designed to increase access, improve services and serve as a one-stop shop for mental health and substance use treatment. Governor Walz’s proposal expands the use of this emerging evidence-based approach in Minnesota.

Increase Rural Counseling Services
Farmers and other rural residents statewide are experiencing high levels of stress, linked to farm production challenges, financial difficulties, changes in the social fabric of rural living, and other factors beyond their control. The Governor’s budget provides $450,000 to expand on collaborative rural mental health efforts that began in 2017, including one-on-one farmer counseling and a 24-hour hotline – critical resources that are currently not meeting growing demand. Furthermore, the budget proposes the addition of two Farm Advocates to the current team of 10 trained advisors, who provide one-on-one assistance for Minnesota farmers facing a crisis caused by either a natural disaster or financial problems.

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