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April 15, 2011

MN-AAP Decries Newborn Screening Changes

Gathering with a broad coalition of partners including parents groups, the March of Dimes, and Mayo Clinic, the MN-AAP led an effort to highlight dangerous changes to the state’s Newborn Screening Program contained in a Senate bill. The proposed changes would call for the destruction of the state’s registry of test results and dried bloodspots, and would seriously jeopardize the utility of the program. Scroll down for a fact sheet and action alert on newborn screening.

HHS Budget Work Begins

Members of the House and Senate gathered this week to begin work in reconciling significant differences in their approach to funding HHS agencies and programs. While comparable in the size of funding, the approaches of the two bills differ. The legislators’ position remains considerably different from that of the Governor.

Concussion Bill Moves Forward

A proposal to raise awareness of concussions and better manage a youth athlete’s “return to play” took several steps in both the House and Senate this week. The bill makes use of guidelines and educational materials made available by the CDC, and requires clearance by trained individuals before a youth may resume practice or competition.

April 1, 2011

Newborn Screening Program Under Attack

In a bill moving through the Senate, major changes are being proposed that would dramatically impact the state’s Newborn Screening Program.  The language proposed would allow parents to decline to have the tests (no change) or to elect to have the tests after which the blood spots would be destroyed (change).  Parents could elect to “opt-in” to have the blood spots stored for a period of no more than 24 months (change).  In addition, the bill would require immediate destruction of all currently stored blood samples.  It would also abolish the registry of congenital diseases which is used for the purpose of follow-up services.

House & Senate Move Budgets Forward

The finance bills setting budgets for HHS agencies and programs are moving through both the House and Senate.  Though very different in their approaches, both bills would cut deeply into public programs and eligibility, rely heavily on federal waivers, and contain a number of controversial policy provisions.

Repeal of Minor Consent Proposed

Under a bill discussed in the Senate, the state’s long-standing ‘minor consent’ law would be repealed.  Under the legislation, health services for minors would require consent by a parent or guardian.  Were a minor the victim of sexual or physical assault or incest, the minor could receive care only after seeking a judicial order.

March 18, 2011

Legislature Takes Next Step in Budget Dance

House and Senate leaders announced their budget “targets” last week, the first step in producing a complete budget.  These figures establish the spending for each area, though not the specific details for programs.  The Republican-led legislature proposes considerably less spending, especially in Health and Human Services programs.

Federal Health Care Reforms a Subject of Continued Skirmishes

Proposals moving through House and Senate committees that would impair or prohibit implementation of the federal health care reforms continue to cause significant controversy.  A bill to prohibit the use of state funds for implementation of the ACA took its next steps, and questions over the authorization of state Health Insurance Exchanges dominated several committees.

Autism Task Force Bill Moves Forward

A bill to reestablish the state’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force passed its first committee and will continue onward.  The proposal is the first of several autism-related bills to receive a hearing during this legislative session.

March 4, 2011

A (Somewhat) Smaller Budget Hole

Minnesota received some positive news about the budget earlier this week, as Minnesota Management and Budget announced that the budget deficit has shrunk from earlier forecasts. While still enormous in terms of both dollars and as a percentage of the total budget, the new deficit projected at $5.03 billion is much better than the earlier $6.2 billion projection. With the news, Governor Dayton updated his budget proposal, and in doing so removed his earlier proposal to reduce MinnesotaCare eligibility.

Tobacco Issue Move Forward

A Senate and House author stepped forward to close the “little cigar” loophole. In a quirk of the tax code, “little cigars” that are nearly indistinguishable from cigarettes are taxed and regulated at a far lower level than cigarettes. These products seem custom-made for youth, costing less than half of the price of a pack of cigarettes and coming in flavors such as peach and grape. The proposal would treat these products at the same level as cigarettes.

Provider Tax Gets Attention

During a discussion about granting an exemption to the provider tax, members of the House HHS Finance Committee engaged in an extensive discussion about the “provider tax.” Members from across the aisle noted the tax’s inherent unfairness to both patients and providers. Legislation is expected to soon be introduced that would lower the provider tax as surplus funds in the Health Care Access Fund rose.

February 18, 2011

Nearly 100 Pediatricians Visit the Capitol

On February 15, nearly 100 pediatricians and pediatric residents from around the state gathered at the Capitol to hear from key legislators and meet with legislators from their district. They communicated MN-AAP’s legislative priorities for 2011: the importance of access to care and early brain development.

State Budget Action Continues

On February 15, Governor Dayton took the first step in moving the state toward its biennial budget plan when he announced his budget proposal.  The plan relies heavily on increased revenue from the wealthiest Minnesotans as well as significant cuts.  The Governor’s plan faces a tough road in the GOP-controlled legislature.  Governor Dayton also vetoed the Republican’s “Phase One” budget balancing bill.  Their proposal would have shaved nearly $1B off the $6.2 budget deficit through cuts to local government aid, higher education, and HHS.

Federal Health Care Sparks Debate

The 2010 federal health care reforms continued to be a source of great debate at the State Capitol, with a number of efforts to slow or stop the initiative going forward.  One proposal seeks to require the state’s Attorney General to join other states’ efforts to block the federal bill, while another plan would prohibit the use of state funds to implement the federal reforms until its constitutionality is affirmed.  While he has not threatened a veto, such bills are unlikely to find favor with Governor Dayton.

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