Legislature Releases HHS Supplemental Budget Bills

On April 18, both the House and Senate health and human services (HHS) finance committees released their versions of supplemental budget bills, which include how they recommend spending their portion of the $300 million surplus in the state’s budget.

The House committee was given a target of spending an additional $10 million over last year’s spending level, while the Senate target cuts more than $5 million from overall general fund HHS spending.

In addition to the spending levels, both bills include several important policy changes. 

The House bill includes several grant programs to address the opioid crisis, including $2 million in opioid abuse prevention pilots targeted at hospitals and law enforcement working together to reduce abuse; another $945,000 for grants to high schools and colleges for educational programs on the harms of opioid abuse; and $1 million for community paramedics to provide services for those receiving treatment following an overdose.

The House bill also includes a prohibition on pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) contracts that prohibit pharmacists from telling patients when it would be cheaper to pay cash for a drug than the patient’s co-payment or deducible. The bill also reforms the use of step therapy so patients who have gone through a “fail first” protocol cannot be forced to do it again.

The Senate bill does not include as many policy provisions as the House version. It does, however, include the step therapy reforms and the pharmacy gag clause prohibition. It also creates a new Minnesota Health Policy Commission to help advise the legislature on health policy. This is based on the federal Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC).

Both bills provide future funding for statewide tobacco cessation services, which are needed starting next year as Clearway Minnesota’s tobacco settlement money begins to dry up. Both bills also include language regarding physician criminal background checks that is needed to make the physician interstate licensure compact fully functional.

Both the House and Senate HHS committees will send these bills to their respective floors soon. Prior to the end of session, House and Senate conference committees will need to work on the supplemental budget bills to try to reach agreement with Gov. Mark Dayton before adjournment.