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Session 2004

Session 2004: Health Care

Health care figures to be a big issue in this year's legislative session. Rising health care costs are causing problems for state government, businesses and employees. Several lawmakers have proposed dramatically different proposals in changing the health care system. They range from allowing small businesses to enroll in MinnesotaCare, the state's subsidized health insurance program to allowing for profit HMOs to offer services in Minnesota. -- Tom Scheck

Four people on Minnesota's low-income Medical Assistance program on Monday filed what they intend to be a class-action lawsuit, alleging a 2003 law requiring them to pay co-payments for medication and doctors' visits violates federal Medicaid law. (07/26/2004)
The Minnesota Department of Human Services will require many low-income people who have AIDS or who are HIV positive to start paying more for their health care and drug coverage. DHS officials say the AIDS Drug Assistance Program is expected to run a significant deficit in the next year. They say the changes are needed to provide coverage to as many cases as possible. Critics say the changes are unreasonable since they come on the heels of significant budget cuts to HIV and other publicly subsidized health insurance programs. (05/27/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty says he will balance the state's budget deficit by using a mix of spending cuts and by taking money from a fund that pays for the state's subsidized health insurance program, MinnesotaCare. Seventy percent of Pawlenty's budget balancing plan will involve withholding payments to the Health Care Access Fund. The governor says the shift will not cause any problems for MinnesotaCare enrollees in the near term. But critics say they're worried the governor's action could lead to significant cuts to the program in the future. (05/18/2004)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he's taking the next step on the issue of drug reimportation. A plan Pawlenty announced Thursday would allow Minnesota's 120,000 state employees to get certain drugs at no cost to them -- if they buy from a Canadian Internet pharmacy. Minnesota is the first state in the nation to take such action. But critics say the action is illegal and will have a short shelf life. (05/13/2004)
A recent Minnesota study shows teens are becoming more susceptible to smoking. Anti-smoking groups say the findings reaffirm that lawmakers made a mistake in gutting a tobacco endowment to balance last year's budget. (05/13/2004)
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was unsuccessful in his efforts on Thursday to persuade the shareholders of the world's largest drug company to charge Americans less for prescriptions. Pawlenty attended Pfizer's shareholder meeting in Missouri and spoke in favor of controlling drug costs in the United States. (04/22/2004)
After a five-hour debate that touched on changes to abortion policy, HMOs and the welfare system, the Republican-controlled House passed its Health and Human Services budget bill on Friday. (04/02/2004)
For the second straight year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking to health and welfare programs for the cash to fill the largest holes in his budget. But hospital officials and advocates for the poor told senators on Wednesday his latest proposal would weaken their programs to the breaking point. (03/17/2004)
A Senate committee has approved a bill that would erase any doubts about the legality of the University of Minnesota's stem-cell research. (03/11/2004)
The Minnesota State Board of Investment adopted a resolution Wednesday that would encourage the drug company, Pfizer, and other drug companies, to change their business practices. Minnesota's pension funds own about $476 million in Pfizer stock. Gov. Pawlenty, who sits on the investment board, proposed the resolution after the company cut off supplies to Canadian drug wholesalers that sell to Americans. (03/03/2004)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty says federal concerns won't prompt him to shut down a state Web site that provides consumer information on Canadian pharmacies. The Food and Drug Administration sent Pawlenty a letter Monday calling the Web site "unsafe, unsound and ill-considered." Attorney General Mike Hatch says the FDA doesn't have any grounds for legal action against the Web site. (02/24/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty's health care task force has recommended adding a dollar per pack tax on cigarettes to pay for expanding health insurance coverage in the state. The tobacco tax is part of a broader plan that would try to both punish and cajole people into leading healthier lives. It would also try to focus attention on keeping people healthy as well as treating those who are already sick. ( 02/24/2004)
Several Minnesota state lawmakers want to ban smoking in all public buildings. They say the proposal would help prevent illnesses caused by inhaling second hand smoke. They also say it would allow patrons and employees at night clubs, bars and restaurants to breathe smoke-free air. ( 02/24/2004)
A health care task force appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommends adding a dollar per pack tax on cigarettes to pay for expanding health insurance coverage in the state. (02/23/2004)
Several DFL lawmakers have unveiled a plan to ban smoking in all public buildings in Minnesota, including bars an restaurants. They say the ban would help reduce smoking-related illnesses and boost business. Critics say the bill is unfair because state government should not impose additional regulations on businesses. (02/19/2004)

Session 2004

DocumentFinances and Taxes
DocumentHealth Care
DocumentPublic Safety
DocumentSocial Issues
DocumentSocial Services
DocumentStadium Issues

Audio Highlights

Audio Health care task force makes recommendations
Dave Durenberger, head of the Minnesota Citizens Forum on Health Care Costs ( Midday- 2/24/04)
Audio Anti-smoking initiatives
Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, sponsor of a bill to ban smoking; and an opponent, Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.