House DFL releases plan to cut health care costs

HouseDFL Feb 16
State Reps. Joe Mullery, Erin Murphy and Laurie Halverson were among the House Democrats who outlined a package of health care proposals. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Minnesota House Democrats are proposing a package of health care measures aimed at reducing drug costs, stopping fraud and adding greater transparency to medical bills.

During a news conference Tuesday, Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, described the plan as “the next generation of solutions” to problems in the health care system. The proposals face an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled House, but Murphy is optimistic.

“We think that these are solutions that Minnesotans are seeking, and because of that, we think there’s a possibility that we could get some of them or all of them passed,” Murphy said.

The DFL plan includes new cost disclosure requirements for drug manufacturers and an education program aimed at countering the marketing influence those companies have on physicians.

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Their proposal also includes more funding for school social workers and metal health grants.

Another part of the plan would fund an additional eight state investigators to crack down on Medicaid fraud and abuse. Rep. Dianne Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, said the investment could save the state an estimated $1 million a year.

“We think it’s important to have all taxpayer dollars for health care be going directly to health care for those individuals, and that we can continue to have a system that people can have confidence in as doing the right thing for the people we serve,” Loeffler said.

Loffler said the proposed investigations would focus on wrongdoing within health care professions, not the eligibility problems recently identified in state health care programs.

A report last month from the Office of the Legislative Auditor showed that errors in determining eligibility for those programs had cost the state as much as $271 million over a five month period.

The Republican chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee wants to target those programs, not providers.

“The government programs are really the ones that are costing taxpayers the most amount of money, and that’s where we’re losing money,” said Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.

Dean said he’s willing to work with DFL lawmakers on proposals to lower drug prices and to make health care bills easier to understand.