Minnesota House, Senate Approve Bills That Aim To Slow Health Care Spending
The Minnesota House and Senate on Monday both approved bills that aim to slow health care spending as the state faces a $4.6 billion budget deficit, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Senate bill, approved on a 40-23 vote, would lower projected spending by $625 million over the next two years -- nearly $200 million more than the House bill, which passed by an 85-49 margin, according to Sen. Linda Berglin (D). Much of the difference in savings is because the House bill pushed reductions into the next two-year biennium, Berglin said. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has proposed about $1.7 billion in reductions (Kaszuba, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/27).
The House bill would reduce by 3% payments to doctors, dentists and hospitals participating in health care programs for childless adults and low-income residents. The provision would save an estimated $82 million. The Senate version includes a larger payment reduction for specialists, but primary care physicians are exempt from the payment cut under both bills.
In addition, the House bill would impose new limits on the emergency department use by MinnesotaCare beneficiaries and reduce by 5% payment rates for inpatient mental health care for some health programs. Under the House bill, about 800 people with disabilities who receive help from personal care assistants through MinnesotaCare would lose service. The Senate's version would cap the number of hours personal care assistants can bill the state. The Senate bill also would change nursing home payments. For example, a surcharge assessed to non-state operated facilities would increase from $2,815 to $3,165 per bed.
Both the House and Senate bills would reduce dental services for MinnesotaCare beneficiaries, but neither bill would tighten eligibility for subsidized insurance programs, as Pawlenty has recommended. The measures instead would expand coverage to 20,000 to 50,000 children (Dunbar, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/28).