MMA Weighs in on Senate HHS Budget Bill

On April 8, the Senate Health & Human Services (HHS) Finance and Policy committee unveiled its budget proposal, which includes the repeal of the provider tax but no proposed alternative funding for the state’s public health care programs.

The bill shifts most programs currently funded via the Health Care Access Fund (HCAF) to the General Fund along with HCAF money. The author of the proposal, Sen. Michelle Benson (R – Ham Lake), told committee members that the HCAF has allowed legislators to manipulate state program financing by using HCAF dollars to mask additional spending.  

There is very little funding for new programs and much of the 70-page bill is language prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, as well as changes to the state’s medical cannabis program.  

The MMA sent a letter on April 9 to members of the Senate HHS Finance & Policy Committee as they began deliberations on the budget bill. 

The letter thanked Benson for not following the House’s lead to repeal the provider tax sunset. The letter did encourage, however, committee members to “find an alternative funding source to ensure our critical health care access programs continue to have strong support.”

The communication praised the Senate for funding statewide tobacco cessation services but expressed disappointment that language to raise the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21 did not get included.

In the letter, the MMA also opposed language in the budget bill that criminalized abortions performed 20 weeks postfertilization.  

“Our opposition is based on AMA policy that condemns ‘any interference by the government or other third parties that causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment as to what information or treatment is in the best interest of the patient,’” the letter states. “The MMA takes very seriously the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. Physicians and their patients need the ability to make decisions based on the medical data and information available in each case, and this language would limit the ability of physicians to make decisions in the best interests of their patients.”

The bill is expected to pass the committee and be referred to the Senate Finance committee before consideration by the full body following the Easter/Passover break. Legislators are set to return to the Capitol on April 23.