Mixed results for patients, working families in HHS budget
(St. Paul) - The Health and Human Services budget sent to the governor last night is a mixed bag: it improves patient safety, but may force many working Minnesota families to forego healthcare or see costs increase to unaffordable levels, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association.
Nurses applaud the Legislature for taking steps to prevent violence against workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings following a dramatic attack on staff at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood last November.
Under the new law, hospitals will be required to create and implement violence prevention plans. MNA worked with Maplewood police to fight for a bill that includes law enforcement in the planning and reporting process. Facilities must share their plans with law enforcement and report incidents to them as well.
"We saw a horrific event at St. John's," MNA President Linda Hamilton said. "The truth is nurses are assaulted in hospitals and nursing homes every day. They're pinched, hit, and kicked by patients and their families. We're glad to see efforts that will protect nurses and other healthcare workers from violence."
With the hard work of a coalition of organizations, including the Minnesota Nurses Association, a proposal to repeal MinnesotaCare was dropped from the final bill. However, legislators added a provision imposing higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses on families struggling to make ends meet.
"The state is sitting on an almost $2 billion surplus," said Hamilton. "It's unconscionable that in positive economic times we'd even consider cutting quality healthcare for working families in Minnesota."
Hamilton said nurses see first-hand the impact of inadequate health insurance.
"Nurses talk to patients who are coming to the doctor, maybe for the first time," Hamilton said. "They even ask us, 'How much will this cost?' Cost is a barrier to being healthy. If these patients are pushed onto a plan with a high premium or co-pay, they will be forced to decide if they can manage the expense of early, less expensive care in clinics and urgent care settings. If they delay care, they will end up much sicker and in the most expensive settings for care - the emergency room and hospital. We won't see them again until it's too late."
Nurses are calling on Governor Mark Dayton to use $65 million of the state's surplus to restore the cuts made to MinnesotaCare in the budget.
Nurses also support a permanent fix to funding MinnesotaCare, which will sunset in 2019. Without one, they expect hospitals will see an increase in their charitable care.