Minnesota legislators talk key priorities ahead of 2024 session


Hannah Saunders


Four Minnesota legislators spoke about last year’s legislative session and what’s in store for this year’s session, which will begin on Feb. 12th,  at the 2023 Minnesota State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Topics included the elderly population and the state budget. 

Sen. John Hoffman, chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, said one thing he’s going to focus on is the population of adults who are 65 and older. 

“The thing that finally caught up with us [is that] … eventually Minnesota’s 65 and older population is going to surpass the K-12 population, and of course that did [happen],” Hoffman said.

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Hoffman cited baby boomers, and how many of them “didn’t do their savings the way that they should’ve done, so the cost [of healthcare] is a billion—now it’s $3 billion in state funding.” 

Last year was a unique legislative session due to the budget surplus, said Jim Abeler, ranking minority member of the Senate Human Services Committee. 

“I think we need to remember that a lot of what happened last year—when we didn’t pass anything virtually the previous session—we had a lot of ground to make up in every department.”

— Abeler

This session, Abeler will be keeping track of progressive ideas that were passed last session, like paid family medical leave, which he said was good for both residents and the local economy. He would like to ensure that state spending aligns with having a balanced budget in 2024. 

Rep. Liz Reyer, member of the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, reiterated the significance of last year’s large budget surplus, and from her point of view, some solid investments were made.

“We passed a tax credit that will cut child poverty by 30 percent,” Reyer said. “To me, that’s an investment in the future.”

Reyer mentioned how education has been underinvested in, with the real amount of spending having been 20 percent less than what it needed to be. Infrastructures, like bridges and roads, human services, and childcare are also areas that have been underinvested, Reyer said. Following up on investments that are being made needs to be made a priority, according to Reyer. This year, she will be critically looking at the issue of medical debt. 

“We know that the leading cause of bankruptcy for people in our country is medical debt.”

— Reyer

She understands how one major medical bill can lead a person from having a comfortable living situation to having a desperate living situation. Reyer got personal and said her mother declared bankruptcy over her father’s medical bills after he passed away.

“I’ve seen what that does to people. I don’t want people to be in that situation,” Reyer said. “In my view, healthcare is a human right and you should be able to get the care you need without being bankrupted.”

She added how she’s working on scope of practice bills to increase the workforce, like for physical therapy. 

Rep. Robert Bierman, vice chair of House Health Finance and Policy Committee, hopes to work with the entire legislature more collaboratively and effectively this year. A major concern Bierman is focused on are hospitals, such as ERs that are overcrowded with substance use and mental health patients, and lacking a continuum of care to send those patients for proper care. 

“We really need to continue the work on creating infrastructure,” Bierman said. 

Hoffman said there are many conversations happening around health equity, which is inclusive of individuals living with disabilities, but he hardly hears about people with disabilities in those discussions. He emphasized that people with disabilities need to be included in health equity conversations, and wants to focus on integrated conversations with all stakeholders, rather than operating in silos. Abeler agreed with Hoffman on ensuring that people living with disabilities are served well, and that senior citizens are protected and able to be cared for by the healthcare system.

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