ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota House has approved a funding bill to assist the medical communities' response to coronavirus.
SF 4334 provides $200 million in investments for a health care response fund and Minnesota’s public health response contingency account, according to a press release from the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The bill was approved by the Senate in a 55-0 vote earlier in the morning, and will now head to the desk of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.
"This bill ensures Minnesota's entire public and private health care infrastructure is fully prepared to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said. "Legislators will continue to monitor the situation and Minnesotans can rest assured that state leaders will respond as we always do in emergency situations."
$150 million is allotted to the Minnesota Department of Health to make grants to eligible providers for the costs related to planning, preps and response to the coronavirus outbreak, funding temporary testing sites, treatment and quarantine sites.
The legislation also provides $50 million for a contingency account for use by providers, ambulance services, health care clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
“The money that lawmakers appropriated today will help our state’s healthcare system respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester), bill author and chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Division. “There are many unknowns ahead, so we are helping to ensure that our health care institutions and the dedicated health care providers who work in them have the resources they need to confront the crisis. I hope all Minnesotans will take this very seriously and help to reduce the burden on our health care system by doing everything they can to protect themselves and others from this threat.”
According to the press release, grant monies may be used for:
- Establishing and operating temporary sites to provide testing services, to provide treatment beds, or to isolate or quarantine affected individuals
- Temporary conversion of a space for another purpose that will revert to its original use
- Staff overtime and hiring additional staff
- Staff training and orientation
- Purchasing consumable protective or treatment supplies and equipment to protect or treat staff, visitors, and patients
- Developing and implementing screening and testing procedures
- Patient outreach activities
- Additional emergency transportation of patients
- Temporary IT and systems costs to support patient triage, screening, and telemedicine activities
- Purchasing replacement parts or filters for medical equipment
- Specialty cleaning supplies
- Expenses related to the isolation or quarantine of staff
- Other expenses not expected to generate income for the eligible provider after the outbreak ends
The bill also includes coverage for people who do not have insurance or are being treated by an out-of-network doctor. Once providers, like nursing facilities, ambulances, pharmacies and health clinics, accept a grant, they must agree not to bill uninsured patients for the cost of COVID-19 screening, testing, or treatment.
If a patient is out-of-network, the provider must agree to accept the median network rate as payment in full.
SF 4334 includes $50 million for the public health response contingency account, and allows the Minnesota Department of Health to make payments from the public health response contingency account to medical providers like hospitals or nursing facilities on an emergency basis to plan and prepare for pandemic influenza or a communicable or infectious disease.
As part of this bill, the House also authorized a resolution allowing both the House and Senate to adjourn for more than three days. The House and Senate will meet in floor and committee session on an on-call basis through April 14. During this time, the Legislature will only take up legislation on the House and Senate floors by agreement of the House DFL, House GOP, Senate DFL and Senate GOP caucus leaders, according to the release.
“While each of us is working as hard as we can to decrease the risk of transmission, we must ensure our health care providers have the resources they need to take care of Minnesotans who may be afflicted with COVID-19,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement.
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