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HOUSE APPROVES HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES BILL WITH PAY INCREASES FOR WORKERS AND $150 MILLION IN SAVINGS

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House of Representatives approved on Monday the Omnibus Health and Human Services (HHS) bill by a 70-64 vote.

The bill reduces the HHS budget by $150 million over two years through targeted cuts, reforms, and re-prioritization within the budget yet still remains true to the mission of HHS – to protect our most vulnerable and ensure the highest quality of life for Minnesota.

Despite the $150 million in reductions in the bill, nursing homes and long-term care givers will receive their first funding increase in over four years. The bill provides a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for nursing home providers and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for long-term care providers, as well as funds cost-preventing mental health initiatives for children and adults, helps low-income families and children and improves Minnesota’s public health and health care programs.

“We know we need to offer more support for our nursing home and long term care workers,” said Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji). “This bill doesn’t go as far as we need. But it’s a good start to that process. And it’s much better than the $1 billion in cuts we had under the previous republican leadership.”

The House HHS bill achieves cost savings in several ways. Recognizing that Minnesota hospitals are expected to see a nearly $1 billion increase in funding over the next four years due to federal health care reform, the bill generates increased state income by harnessing some of those increases in federal funds. The bill also includes targeted reductions to existing programs and it finds efficiencies in service areas like dental and prescription drugs. The bill recognizes savings from budget decisions elsewhere, such as the fact that funding all-day Kindergarten reduces the number of children on welfare requiring child care.

In addition, State Representative Jay McNamar (DFL - Elbow Lake) successfully passed an amendment that reduced the existing nursing home surcharge (often called the “granny tax”) by $440 per bed starting in the next biennium. The amendment passed unanimously with bipartisan support.

“Our facilities in rural communities can’t afford to keep paying this tax per bed,” said Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette). “Our plan is to reduce it gradually starting next biennium to make it easier for our local facilities to offer quality service for our residents.”

 

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