Walz’s ONEcare Proposal Begins Its Journey in the House

Gov. Tim Walz’s plan for health care reform, which he is calling ONEcare, began moving through the House on March 6, beginning in the House Health and Human Services (HHS) Policy Committee. 

The bill (HF 3) carried by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) includes several provisions found in Walz’s budget recommendations.

The issue that has received the most attention is the proposal to implement options for Minnesotans who earn too much to qualify for a public health care program so that they can “buy-in” to MinnesotaCare. Walz wants to provide an affordable option for those purchasing coverage in the individual market.  

The bill would provide an option for anyone in the state to purchase a MinnesotaCare product that covers 90 percent of costs, with only a 10 percent cost-sharing requirement. Called the platinum option, these plans would be fully paid for by the enrollee’s premiums. The bill also proposed options with 70 percent and 80 percent coverage if, following a market study, it is deemed that there are not coverage options available in an enrollee’s county.

The ONEcare bill also creates a statewide drug formulary for all Minnesota public programs. This is designed to use the purchasing power of the state to negotiate lower drug costs and to remove third parties like health plans and pharmacy benefit managers from state programs.  

In addition, the bill would move dental coverage for public programs away from health plans to a single administrator, while standardizing all dental payments and providing a 54 percent payment increase.

The MMA has just begun reviewing the many components of ONEcare. When compared to the MMA’s existing position related to Minnesota buy-in, this goes much further and causes concerns. The MMA supports the MinnesotaCare buy-in only if it is limited to counties where there is one or fewer private coverage options available, it reimburses at least at the Medicare level, and there is an upper income limit tied to an affordability standard of paying no more than 9.8 percent on health care costs. The MMA does support the move to a single drug formulary for Minnesota’s public programs.

After a lengthy hearing, the bill passed the HHS Policy Committee on March 6 and was referred to the House Commerce Committee.