Public-option health care, abortion rights

Lawmakers took the first steps to create a public insurance plan in the latest health care budget. State officials must first study expanding MinnesotaCare, currently only for the working poor, and ask for federal permission.

It would be a few years before a public option is available and the most likely one is the elimination of income limits for the state medical plan. This year lawmakers also decided to eliminate immigration status as a barrier to applying for medical assistance.

Lawmakers also created a prescription drug affordability board that will use a mix of state and federal data to keep drug prices down. It includes out-of-pocket limits on medicines used to address chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma.

There wasn’t enough support in the Senate to approve a nurse staffing bill with committees to help set patient to caregiver ratios. But lawmakers did agree to take a stronger approach to addressing workplace violence and to do an in-depth survey exploring why nurses are leaving their jobs.

Also, in the nurse safety bill is money for loan forgiveness to try to attract new caregivers.

Abortion and other sexual care

One of the early bills to pass this year was protections for reproductive rights including guaranteed access to abortion. Prior to the Protect Reproductive Options, or PRO, Act, abortion access was protected by a 1995 state Supreme Court decision in a way similar to how the now overturned Roe v. Wade protected access at a federal level

Lawmakers also eliminated a number of abortion restrictions they say violate the constitution or infringe on patients’ rights to make health decisions with their doctors. They also passed a law protecting patients who come to the state seeking abortion care.

A bill banning conversion therapy for teens and a law making the state a refuge for families seeking gender affirming care were also approved.

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