MN Legislature is on One-Week Break - Here's What's Happened So Far

We've been busy this session. It's tough keeping track of what legislators are doing that could or will impact your health care freedom! There are lots of bills, unexpected amendments, and procedural surprises.

We have made it through the first and second committee deadlines and the legislators are on break this week. But we aren't! We want to make sure you know what has happened at the Minnesota Capitol so far during this legislative session. This email contains information about six different bills and what you can do to protect your medical freedom, patient privacy, and patient consent rights.

1. The "NO-Consent" Bills are Dead - But the Fight isn't Over 
(HF 3312 - Zerwas / SF 2975 - Pratt) The bills would allow holders of medical record data to circumvent MN's longstanding patient consent requirements for sharing private patient data.

We are incredibly happy to report that the Zerwas/Pratt "NO-Consent" bills are dead having not reached second committee deadline. However, this language could be brought to life as an amendment to a bill or in conference committee, or brought up during a floor session. We have heard that there is stil an attempt to work with leadership to try to get it passed. It is crucial to keep up the pressure and to thank legislators who are fighting to protect your medical privacy and consent rights. For more information, follow this link to CCHF's website.

2. Opioid Tax and Prescription Tracking Bills 
(HF 1440 - Baker / SF 730 - Rosen) The bills use general fund taxpayer dollars (Baker), or creates a new tax set by the unelected Board of Pharmacy (Rosen) to fund a new program for opioid awareness. They also permit integration of the state prescription tracking database (PMP) into private electronic medical records. The bills also limit the amount of medication doctors can prescribe and require doctors and prescribers to check the PMP before prescribing opioids.

These bills have changed drastically through the committee process in both the House and the Senate and have very little resemblance with each other. This means that the bills will likely wind up in conference committee to be negotiated with very little opportunity for public input. We have testified in opposition to these bills, which if enacted would intrude into the doctor-patient relationship (both) and allow taxation without representation (Rosen). The legislature should not put restrictions and requirements on the practice of medicine - especially since the legislators do not have the same medical training or expertise. 

To see the interesting details, read our testimony.

3. Health Policy Commission 
(HF 3823 - Schomacker / SF 3417 - Benson) The bills create an industry-controlled commission to advise the legislature and provide industry-friendly drafts of legislation in health care.

These bills are being pushed by the Chamber of Commerce. They would establish a new government council and create an industry-led commission that will be used to drive the industry’s policy agenda—at taxpayer expense. So for example, the Chamber is supporting the bill to end patient consent requirements over medical records. In committee last week, a legislator asked the bill author what incentive the industry-led commission will have to reduce costs for patients and improve care for patients? The author was unable to answer.

These bills also enable sharing of private health information, create another layer of bureaucracy that doesn’t expire until 2034 (15 years), and expend an unknown amount of taxpayer money, which may increase over the years. to drive the industry’s policy. 

4. All Payer Claims Database (APCD)  
(HF 3398 - Zerwas / SF 2675 - Jensen) The bills would remove or extend the expiration date for MN Department of Health access to and use of patient data "to analyze variations in health care costs, quality, utilization, and illness based on geographical areas or populations."

The bill supporters and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) want to be able to continue to use your data to drive policy decisions, even without your consent. Data is power and he who holds the data makes the rules. It's impossible for anyone without the same level of access to the data to refute the department's claims about what the data supposedly says.

This is a large, unregulated government research project on Minnesota patients without consent. MDH claims that privacy protection is very important and the data is stripped of individual indentifiers. But "de-identified" data can and has been re-identified. 

5. Legislative Approval of State Requests for Federal Funds 
(HF 3170 - Schomacker / SF 2794 - Benson) These bills require legislative oversight for when a department submits a request for federal funding.

CCHF testified in support of a bill to increase legislative oversight of tax dollars. Federal funding often comes with strings attached, state-matching requirements, time limits, or stipulations on how the money can be used—which directly impact state policy and legislation. 

We believe that requests for federal funding should only be made with the express authority of the legislature. At a minimum, the legislature should be informed of the request and be allowed a sufficient window of time to review the funding requests. Unfortunately, an amendment was added in committee that reduces the legislative oversight, but it is still a step in the right direction.

6. Prohibiting Gag Clauses 
(HF 3024 - Dean / SF 2836 - Jensen) These bills prohibit health plans from imposing gag clauses that prevent pharmacies from telling patients the cash price of medication.

CCHF has testified in support of this freedom of speech issue. Instead of being forced to stay silent when a patient picks up their prescription, a pharmacist could tell a patient that the price for paying cash would be lower than the price the patient would pay if they used their insurance. 

Patients are suffering today from high drug prices for a variety of reasons including price-inflating kickback agreements between group-purchasing organizations and hospitals.

This bill will give some patients an escape hatch into lower prices and needed relief.

So please do three things:

FIRST, please THANK the key legislators who kept the "NO Consent" bills from being heard in their committees: House Civil Law and Data Practices Chair Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) and Senate Health and Human Services Chair Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake):, 

SECOND, please call or email (calls are better!) your state senator and representative. Ask them to protect your privacy and consent rights. Ask them how they will vote on any or all of these bills and let us know what they say. Tell them to make NO changes to the Minnesota Health Records Act. Tell them that you know that the so-called federal "HIPAA standard" that Big Business wants to impose on MN patients means you will lose your privacy and consent rights. Tell them to keep MN's strongest-in-the-nation patient privacy and consent law intact and unchanged

THIRD, actively engage on any of the other issues presented here by an email or a phone call to your state legislators.

You can find your Senator and Representative by following this link.

We've heard about your calls and emails. Thank you! You've already made a difference!

However, they must continue to hear from you. 

In the next seven weeks you will either KEEP or LOSE your medical privacy and consent rights—and with it the freedom and personal control that those rights give to YOU and your doctors.

For more background information on protecting your consent rights, go to our website or follow this link.

Thank you for your active engagement,

Matt Flanders
Legislative Specialist

P.S. If you would like to testify on any of these bills in person or provide a written letter, we would love to connect with you to help. Legislators listen when a Minnesota citizen takes the time to provide testimony and share personal insights.