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Surcharges at nursing homes proposed

ST. PAUL -- Senate Democrats suggest adding surcharges on nursing homes and health maintenance organizations to help make up for a $150 million cut to state health programs ordered by legislative leaders.

A bill unveiled Monday by Sen. Tony Lourey, the Senate health and human services finance chairman, would add an $80 million surcharge on health maintenance organizations and $16 million on nursing homes in the next two years.

The budget also caps how much can be spent on managed care programs, an expected $53 million savings.

The health and human services budget -- which mostly goes to provide health care for the poor, disabled and elderly -- would top $11 billion. That only is smaller than public school spending in the state's proposed $38 billion, two-year budget.

In his bill, Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, suggests transferring more than $400 million out of the Health Care Access Fund for other uses.

"Our committee was given a difficult task this session as the Legislature looks for savings within the budget for health and human services," Lourey said. "This legislation doesn't represent what I had hoped for as we started this session, but I believe this bill meets its target and still protects our most vulnerable populations."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.