House passes HHS conference committee report

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Autism studies, group homes, personal care assistants and electronic benefit transfer cards are just a few of the dozens of health and human services reform policies in a conference committee report passed by the House.

As part of HF2294*/ SF2093, the omnibus health and human services bill, an autism study of the Somali community would be conducted to try to find out why one in 27 Somali children are diagnosed with autism at birth. Another autism study would consider early intervention therapies and their projected outcomes.

A mandatory requirement to close a foster care bed when a resident no longer needs it would be delayed until 2013, and instead a needs determination model would indicate where bed closures are most available. Also, a four-bed adult foster care home could accept a fifth person for temporary respite care, in some circumstances.

Legislators decided last year to help balance the state budget by paying Minnesotans who are employed as personal care assistants for family members 20 percent less than their non-related counterparts. The rate cut was temporarily blocked by the courts and the Department of Human Services put off spending the savings. Under the report, the 20 percent cut would be delayed until July 1, 2013.

One of the more controversial provisions of the bill focuses on increased restrictions for the use of electronic benefit transfer cards that are issued to persons who meet low-income requirements.

A provision proposed by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) would limit the card purchases to stores in Minnesota and adjacent states. Opponents said the measure is not fair and would prevent cardholders from using the funds to pay for food and shelter expenses when attending family events in other states. The bill also adds liquor stores, tobacco stores and tattoo parlors to the list of prohibited uses.

Other provisions would:
• exempt Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program enrollees from the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association six-month residency requirement;
• amend how patients may give permission to release their medical records;
• require postpartum information to be available at WIC locations; and
• restore emergency Medical Assistance for chemotherapy and dialysis.

Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) sponsor the bill, which the House re-passed 128-2. If approved by the Senate, it would go to Gov. Mark Dayton for action.