With less than a month to go in the 2015 Legislative Session, there’s little consensus on the next state budget, and healthcare is the biggest argument. Even though the state has a $1.9 billion surplus, the GOP’s proposed budget provides for $2 billion in tax cuts and cuts $1 billion from Health and Human Services. House Republicans want to slash healthcare so they can give cuts to big business, including eliminating the corporate property tax altogether.
Rep. Matt Dean’s (R-Dellwood) proposal is to drop MinnesotaCare entirely. MinnesotaCare is the insurance program for about 90,000 Minnesotans who make too much money for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance through an exchange. They make 134-200% of the Federal Poverty Level or about $40,000 for a family of four. While some insist that MinnesotaCare recipients would be compensated by the state for enrolling in a MNsure plan, it’s not that simple. A comparable MNsure plan would cost more and have as high as a $6,000 deductible.
What will surely happen is families won’t be able to pay for better care, will delay needed care, or go broke when they do have to see a healthcare provider. As a result, nurses will continue to see patients who are sicker, who should’ve come for care sooner, and who can’t afford things they need to get better, including medications.
MNA nurses are joining Take Action Minnesota and many other groups to oppose the cuts. It’s anticipated that the HHS Finance bill will be on the House Floor on Wednesday or Thursday of next week. The coalition of groups opposing these cuts is working to turn out people for the hearing. Stay tuned for specifics of where and when. In the meantime, can you send an email to your legislators TODAY, asking them to save MinnesotaCare?
The workplace violence prevention bill championed by Minnesota nurses has had another victory in the Minnesota Senate. The bill, which would require all Minnesota hospitals to have a workplace violence prevention plan and provide training to workers on an annual basis, was included in the HHS Finance Omnibus bill last Friday night. Despite a push from nurses and legislators to include a provision requiring hospitals to report data on violent incidents to the Department of Health and make it accessible to the public, hospitals pushed back, saying that they did not want the public to have access to data on the number of violent incidents that occur at their facilities. Instead, the data will only be accessible to collective bargaining representatives and law enforcement. Unfortunately for nurses, this means that the Department of Health will not be able to play a role in monitoring and analyzing incidents of workplace violence or working with hospitals to improve gaps they may have in their violence prevention plans.
The HHS bill moved on to the full Finance Committee on Wednesday night, where it also passed and will be heard on the Senate floor today. While the bill has found success in the Senate, the House did not even hold a hearing on the bill or include it in their omnibus bill. Because of that, pressure is still needed to ask House members to agree to include the language in the final HHS Omnibus bill that will come out of conference committee.
The bill to establish a Community Emergency Medical Technician was also included in the Senate Health and Human Services Omnibus bill. MNA nurses and other stakeholders still have concerns that the bill could allow CEMTs to practice nursing in a non-emergent setting. Because there is a provision in the bill that requires a workgroup to make recommendations to the Legislature on what services will be eligible for reimbursement, MNA will continue to advocate within the workgroup that these services not infringe on the nursing scope of practice.
The House has also included the CEMT bill in its HHS omnibus finance bill. Slight differences in the language means that MNA will also continue to advocate for the Senate position, which removes the ability for CEMTs to do Care Coordination and diagnosis-specific patient education.
It is expected that the bill will pass in some form in the final HHS Omnibus budget bill and the workgroup will begin to meet this summer.
Wednesdays at the Capitol
Every Wednesday, we bring small groups of nurses to the Capitol to meet with legislators about our priority bills. Our next visit is April 29 for Children’s St. Paul and Minneapolis. All MNA members are welcome. Your bargaining unit can claim your own Day on the Hill too.
We’ll meet at the MNA office in the morning for a briefing and quick training on how to talk to legislators. We will carpool to the Capitol to talk to elected officials about the need for Safe Patient Standard and Workplace Violence Prevention legislation. We’ll return to the office around 1 p.m. and have lunch. Please contact Geri Katz email@example.com or Eileen Gavin firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up.