WASHINGTON– U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded $46,276,090 in additional payments to Minnesota for their Basic Health Program (BHP). Established by the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to create a BHP for low-income citizens, providing healthcare coverage to those who do not qualify for programs like Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CMS estimates that qualified health plan premiums in Minnesota would have been 18.8 percent higher if it was not operating their BHP, MinnesotaCare.
“Minnesota has a long, bipartisan history of innovation and efficiency in health care. MinnesotaCare has helped to bring down healthcare costs for the most vulnerable in our state who need affordable, comprehensive coverage,” Klobuchar said. “This funding helps in that effort and I will continue to fight for lower healthcare costs.”
“MinnesotaCare is a critical program that furthers our goal of making sure everyone has access to affordable, high-quality health care,” Smith said. “By investing in MinnesotaCare, we’re investing in people across the state and in the shared belief that we can all work collectively to lower the cost of health care.”
In May of 2018, Klobuchar and Smith urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to restore the full amount of federal funding that was cut from MinnesotaCare over the past year. Minnesota, New York, and HHS recently reached an agreement about a lawsuit regarding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. Under the agreement, HHS agreed to develop a new system for providing federal funding for BHPs like MinnesotaCare. In the letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the senators called for full funding for MinnesotaCare.
Throughout her time in the Senate, Klobuchar has been fighting to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. In 2015, Klobuchar reintroduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders (AGE) Act to help reduce the financial burden on families by establishing a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member. Last month, three of Klobuchar’s bipartisan bills to combat the opioid epidemic were signed into law as part of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. One of those bills, the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act that Klobuchar introduced with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will help crack down on health care facilities or providers that try to game the system to take advantage of vulnerable patients. Klobuchar has also been a leader in curbing the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, improving and strengthening Medicare, and protecting American consumers by leading major bipartisan legislation, such as the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, and the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act.
Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, has made bringing down health care costs a top priority, saying it’s the issue she hears about most as she travels the state. Smith’s very first bill took aim at a tactic big pharmaceutical companies are using to keep affordable generic drugs out of the hands of Minnesota families and seniors. Smith later introduced a comprehensive bill to not only lower prescription drug prices for Minnesotans, but also to save billions of tax dollars on Medicare’s prescription drug program. In October, President Trump signed into law a measure she pushed to outlaw “gag clauses,” which were preventing pharmacists from telling customers when they could save money by paying cash for their drugs, rather than using their insurance. Smith also has a leadership role on the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus, and the Senate-Passed Farm Bill includes a bipartisan provision which she championed with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of North Dakota to create a “Rural Health Liaison” at USDA whose job will be to focus federal health efforts on the unique needs of rural America.