March 5, 2013

Governor Dayton’s Budget Proposal Part 5: Health and Human Services

Many Minnesotans have seen the value of public health and human services at some point in their lives, whether it’s child care assistance that enabled a friend to keep her job, nursing home care for an elderly parent, or affordable health insurance for a cousin with a chronic illness. These and other essential services improve the health and stability of Minnesota families throughout the state.

Governor Dayton’s budget proposal increases funding for health and human services by $128 million over forecasted spending for the FY 2014-15 biennium (or an eight percent increase from FY 2012-13). Despite the wide scope of this area of the state budget, the Governor manages to stretch limited dollars pretty far. The initiatives in his budget will improve the lives of thousands of Minnesotans and help the state provide services more efficiently.

Health care. Around 145,000 currently uninsured low-income Minnesotans will have affordable and comprehensive health insurance as a result of expanding eligibility for Medical Assistance and making it easier for people to enroll. Governor Dayton recently signed a bill taking the first step to expand eligibility for parents, young adults and adults without children. Other Medicaid-related improvements are expected later in the session.

The Governor’s budget also sets aside $300 million in state resources for improving MinnesotaCare to meet requirements in the Affordable Care Act. For the past 20 years, MinnesotaCare has enabled hundreds of thousands of low-income working Minnesotans to purchase affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. The Dayton administration is working with the federal government to ensure federal funding continues to be available to create the next generation of MinnesotaCare.

In order to meet the need for more trained health care professionals, the Governor proposes increasing funding for Medical Education Research Costs (MERC) by $13 million in the FY 2014-15 biennium to provide grants to health care providers who train medical students.

Mental health. The Governor’s proposal will allow thousands of children to access better mental health care by investing in more school-linked mental health services, improving the coordination of care for children with complex conditions and helping family members learn skills so they can support their child’s treatment. The Governor also invests in mental health services for all ages by funding additional mobile mental health teams to respond to crises, helping individuals with mental health issues to transition from institutional care back into the community, and improving access to mental health services by increasing some provider reimbursement rates and expanding the range of services covered.

Reform 2020. The Governor’s budget implements elements of the Reform 2020 plan, which restructures services for the elderly and Minnesotans with disabilities to ensure people get the “right services at the right time.” Some of the Governor’s changes include helping individuals receive care in their homes rather than in institutions, providing more intensive services for children with autism who are enrolled in Medical Assistance, and supporting housing stability for people with chronic conditions.

Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). In order to address intergenerational poverty, the Governor proposes start-up funding for a home visiting initiative to help improve graduation rates among teen parents and ensure the healthy development of their children. The Governor also proposes to change how income is counted when determining eligibility for MFIP in order to reward parents who are working toward self-sufficiency.

Minnesota’s human services IT infrastructure. We may be living in the 21st century, but many of the IT systems that support the state’s human services are severely outdated. The Governor’s budget updates Minnesota’s human services technology infrastructure to deliver services more efficiently and improve the user experience to reflect our modern world.

Buying in bulk. The State of Minnesota has enormous potential bargaining power in negotiating for better prices. The Governor’s budget takes advantage of this, finding approximately $66 million in savings through strategies like aggressively contracting with managed care organizations and negotiating for higher rebates for diabetic test strips.

Governor Dayton faced difficult choices when developing the health and human services portion of his budget. After years of budget deficits, many Minnesotans expected him to restore funding for essential services that had suffered cuts year after year.

Unfortunately, the need continues to outpace the available resources. For example, although the Governor’s budget proposes permanent funding for Emergency Medical Assistance to provide cancer and dialysis treatment for qualifying non-citizens, it is just a small step in rebuilding an adequate health care safety net.