Health finance bill gets House, Senate OK

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A health and human services conference committee report awaits gubernatorial action.

Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth) said there are “500 million reasons to vote against it,” referencing the monetary cuts in the bill. When combined with a 7 percent ($600 million) target below the forecast, and an estimated $90 million lost in federal money, Huntley said HF1362*/SF695 adds up to a more than a $1 billion hit. He said Gov. Tim Pawlenty sought a $1.5 billion cut.

Passed 80-51 by the House, and 47-18 by the Senate, it now goes to the governor. Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls) is the Senate sponsor. (Watch the floor session.)

“Every one of these cuts is painful and will hurt somebody,” Huntley said. “We tried to minimize the damage best we could. There are a lot of bad things we had to do to hurt people.”

The report calls for a 3 percent cut to Medical Assistance and other programs, but it does not cut primary care fields. Specialists are cut by about 5 percent.

Huntley said hospitals would receive about a 3 percent cut, which he said is 1/17th of what the governor wanted. He said nursing homes are not cut too bad, and that long-term care is reduced by 2.58 percent.

Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) said the report is deceiving because the cuts are actually reductions from previously proposed increases. He said the bill increases spending by approximately 20 percent from the current biennium.

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