Health care groups line up against DFL cuts

More than 50 organizations that rely on funding from the state are criticizing DFL legislative leaders for their plan to cut $150 million from the health and human services budget.

DFL Legislative leaders announced last week that they planned to cut the $150 million shocked health care groups who were hoping Democrats would use a portion of their proposed tax increases to protect or increase funding to those programs.

The groups, including the Minnesota Hospital Association, the Children’s Defense Fund, Lutheran Social Services, The Mental Health Association of Minnesota, the Minnesota Child Care Association, and the Minnesota Medical Association, wrote a letter urging DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen to reconsider the proposed budget target. Here’s part of what it says:

“These budget targets are even more perplexing in light of $2 billion of proposed new revenues and, more important, the fact that the HHS budget is one of the few areas with actual expenditures below projections in the February forecast.

Policymakers have repeatedly called for Health and Human Services to bear the brunt of solving the overall budget. Every time, Health and Human Services stakeholders have taken their hits.

Compounding cuts, including last biennium’s $1.1 billion, have strained our organizations’ ability to continue to provide the level of services Minnesotans need. “

The groups also said nursing homes and mental health groups were hoping for more money in the next budget cycle. In addition, hospitals and clinics and other social safety net programs have seen their state payments reduced or held flat.

DFL leaders say they think there are additional savings that they can find in the health and human services budget. Thissen told reporters last week that he thought changing how the state pays doctors, hospitals and clinics is one option. He also said he thinks the Legislature can find savings in how the Department of Human Services delivers services and by increasing money for affordable housing. He said he thinks the the cuts can be made without harming the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“People, I think, are more concerned at the uncertainty of what that kind of a cut will mean,” Thissen said. “But as we work through the process people will get more comfortable that we are going to do what we can to preserve the safety net and create reforms and efficiencies in other parts of the budget.”

Thissen said DFL leaders are looking to trim the HHS budget because it’s growing much faster than any other portion of the state budget. He says the specifics of the budget will be released in early April. Gov. Dayton is proposing to increase spending in the HHS budget by $170 million.

Here’s the letter:

Budget Leadership Letter (2)