At the Table – July 2020

The Second Special State Legislative Session

The second special session again started with a debate of the governor’s peacetime emergency powers. As in the first special session, the Minnesota Senate voted against the governor’s emergency power extension, and the Minnesota House approved the extension. Therefore, the governor’s emergency authority will continue. We expect the governor will call the Legislature back every 30 days to extend his peacetime emergency through the fall (and possibly later). 

This second special session was only slightly more eventful than the first, with much of the negotiations happening behind closed doors. The Legislature failed to reach an agreement on a bonding bill or tax bill, but agreed on a package of police accountability measures early Tuesday morning, following two months of debate after the murder of George Floyd. The bill will ban chokeholds in all but extreme circumstances, outlaw “warrior training,” and require an officer to intervene when another officer is using excessive force.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution (82-40) declaring racism a public health crisis in the state, and the Senate and Governor are receiving pressure to pass similar resolutions.

The Legislature will likely be back again on August 13 to vote on the Governor’s peacetime emergency authority and to once again push for a deal on the bonding and tax bills. Notably, this session would fall after the August 11 primary election. As additional special session are called throughout the year, we will continue to provide updates to members via this At The Table newsletter, as well as through our 2020 Legislative Year in Review.

Governor Walz Issues Face Mask Mandate

Governor Walz issued a statewide face mask mandate that took effect Saturday, July 25. The related Executive Order 20-81 spells out how the order will be enacted and enforced:

  • Masking will be mandated in all public-facing indoor places and in similar outdoor settings where social distancing is not possible.
  • Signage at retail stores will be required; The state will produce sample signs to help compliance.
  • Businesses will be required to make a reasonable effort to educate non-compliant customers and will be required to deal with non-compliant customers in a manner similar to how they deal with any other non-compliant customers relative to store policy. Nothing in the Order requires businesses to enforce the requirement when it is unsafe to do so.
  • Individuals that willfully violate the Executive Order are guilty of a petty misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be punished by a fine not to exceed $100.
  • Businesses that blatantly disregard the order will be subject to penalties.
  • Exceptions will be made for health reasons or in cases of strenuous work.

Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Health and Human Services Releases Draft Report

In addition to monitoring the state legislature, the Medical Alley Association’s government relations professionals monitor a variety of governmental task forces, including the governor’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Health and Human Services.

The main charge of The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Health and Human Services is to create and deliver a report to the governor and legislature by Oct 1, 2020. The report is to include strategies that, if implemented, will transform health and human services systems and reduce costs by $100 million.

The commission’s draft report was released in early July. In the draft report, the commission presents the Minnesota Legislature with the 22 strategies that the committee has identified for further consideration. Some of the savings strategies include:

  • Modifying certain medical assistance rates for durable medical equipment to match Medicare rates
  • Expanding volume purchasing for durable medical equipment
  • Creating a uniform pharmacy benefit
  • Aligning state and federal health care privacy protections
  • Establishing a Prescription Drug Purchasing Council
  • Establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Commission

Federal Update

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar signed a renewal of determination, effective July 25, that extends the current COVID-19 public health emergency for another 90 days. The additional extension benefits patients by allowing for continuation of policies outlined in existing waivers that have been implemented because of the pandemic, including waivers pertaining to telemedicine.

Meanwhile, Congress is currently negotiating the next coronavirus relief package. Lawmakers face pressure to pass legislation before the end of the month, when the $600 per week federal unemployment insurance benefit is set to expire, but a deal seems unlikely before the deadline. Congress also has to resolve differences on several issues, including the unemployment benefit, liability protections for businesses, aid to state and local governments, and direct payments to Americans.

Medical Alley Association Legislator Interview: House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler

In this legislator interview, we hear from House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. Majority Leader Winkler worked for 13 years as counsel for several Minnesota technology companies, and in this video, he shares why health innovation is important to him. For previous Medical Alley legislator interviews and additional content, visit our YouTube page

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