Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch and Senate President Don Samuelson on Thursday announced the health care legislation they will push for in the 2002 legislative session.
The bills include the Fairness in Health Care Act, the Fair Drug Pricing Act and a bill prohibiting the hiring of someone who's committed a violent crime to care for vulnerable adults.
One of the bills, the Fairness in Health Care Act, has passed in the Senate twice but has stalled in the House each year. The two Democrats said the bill contains common sense measures that won't significantly raise the cost of health insurance.
Hatch said it's patterned after the bill Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed a few years back in that state. It would hold health carriers that deviate from accepted medical practice accountable; make health carriers define what is "medically necessary;" and reveal the criteria health carriers use to make coverage decisions.
Despite insurance lobbyists' claims, the Brainerd DFL senator said that when Texas HMOs were made accountable for deviating from accepted medical practice no significant increase in lawsuits resulted.
Hatch said insurers don't like the idea that the definition of what is medically necessary is taken out of their control.
"Size and power create arrogance," he said. "We're dealing with very large companies."
The attorney general said that almost every legislative candidate who ran in 2000 pledged to do something about prescription drug prices and that now was the time for action. About 16 percent of Minnesotans don't have prescription drug coverage and these individuals pay considerably higher prices than HMOs or the federal government, according to the attorney general's fact sheet.
Samuelson said the Fair Drug Pricing Act would allow Minnesotans without prescription drug insurance coverage to buy their prescriptions at the same discount rate offered to those who are covered by Medicaid, a savings of up to 15 percent.
Hatch said pharmacy medications are among the fastest rising costs in health care.
Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd, said today in a phone interview that he's inclined to support the Fairness in Health Care Act, although he noted some representatives were concerned it might raise insurance costs.
He said he wasn't sure if the Fair Drug Pricing Act, which the two Democrats were discussing, was the same bill that came before the House last year. If it was, he said, many representatives voted against it because of concerns that it might not be constitutional.
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