FROM OUR COMMUNITY: Thanks to work of many, health care provider tax is saved

Thanks to the hard work and tenacity of hundreds of advocates across the state, health care for more than one […]

Thanks to the hard work and tenacity of hundreds of advocates across the state, health care for more than one million Minnesotans – including seniors, people living with disabilities, kids, families and people working for low wages – was protected this session when policymakers agreed to preserve Minnesota’s health care provider tax.

The provider tax was under threat of “sunsetting” in December based on an agreement made to end a state government shutdown in 2011. Without action by policymakers this year, the state would have faced a $700 million per year loss in health care funding. This would have threatened the health care of Minnesotans who get affordable care through Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s version of Medicaid) and MinnesotaCare. The tax sunset also could have jeopardized other priorities that Minnesotans value.

For decades to come, Minnesotans will continue to be able to get the health care they need, when they need it because people from across the state spoke up about the importance of Minnesota’s health care provider tax. The Minnesota Budget Project was proud to work alongside This Is Medicaid coalition members such as Brain Injury Alliance, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, The Arc Minnesota and others to ensure that policymakers focused on what this issue was about: the health and well-being of our friends, families and neighbors.

Patsy Murphy, an advocate with the Brain Injury Alliance, said she thrives because of Medicaid. “Being able to see a doctor when I need one and to get the medication I need has helped me control my seizures and gain back cognitive function I lost after my injury,” she told reporters at a press conference in March. “Medicaid helped me in my time of crisis to stay independent and active in my community.”

Another advocate who spoke at several rallies and advocacy opportunities was Riley Schumacher of St. Cloud. He has common variable immune deficiency and is able to cover his various treatments through Medicaid. “The care was lifesaving for me as an infant, and as I got older, [Medicaid] has helped me afford treatment for fibromyalgia, asthma and my mental health,” he said. “I would struggle to afford treatment otherwise.”

TakeAction Minnesota, labor unions, and patient and consumer advocacy groups rallied more than 150 organizations from across the state to sign a letter to policymakers urging them to maintain the health care provider tax. “This loss of funding would jeopardize health care access for thousands of low-income Minnesotans, threaten the stability of the health care sector and negatively impact the state budget,” the letter stated.

Pediatricians, nurses, social workers, and hospital administrators also rose to the call to protect this critical funding for health care. More than 200 health care professionals – those who collect the provider tax – reminded policymakers that without action to maintain the provider tax, they risked cutting services, reducing access and taking health care away from Minnesotans in every corner of the state.

Advocates with This Is Medicaid and allied groups across Minnesota have much to celebrate with this year’s victory on the health care provider tax. We also understand that the state must do more to meet the diverse health care needs for all Minnesotans. For example, there are shortages of health care providers in rural areas and persistent racial inequity in both access to care and health outcomes. This is made more difficult by the fact that policymakers agreed to a lower rate for the tax (1.8 percent versus the current 2 percent). However, we’ll not stop working to protect Medicaid and the health care it ensures for the people of Minnesota.

The Minnesota Budget Project is a nonpartisan initiative of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits promoting research and advocacy solutions so that all Minnesotans have access to opportunity and economic well-being.

Laura Mortenson, Minnesota Budget Project, member of This Is Medicaid Coalition