Decisions in session’s final days should strengthen health care and child care for Minnesotans

Jessie Luévano
May 14, 2024

In 2023, policymakers made transformational budget investments for the well-being of Minnesotans and their families. While 2024 is not a budget-setting year for the state, there are policy decisions at play in the final days of the legislative session that could set the stage for further progress next year.

Improving affordable child care

We and our partners have been making the case for expanding access to affordable child care through exciting policies like Great Start Scholarships. That should be a must-do for policymakers in 2025, and there are steps they can take this year that build toward that direction.

In their Education Supplemental Budget Bill (House File 5237), the Minnesota House has proposed two improvements to Early Learning Scholarships, which is an important mechanism for lower-income families across the state to be better able to afford child care for young children. 

1. Pay child care providers prospectively. Providers would receive payment for the child care services they provide either in advance or at the beginning of the child’s enrollment. 
2. Pay child care providers based on the number of children participating in Early Learning Scholarships that are enrolled at their facility, rather than based on the number of days those children attend.

These policies recognize the challenges that child care providers face just to keep in business. They would support provider stability by providing a more consistent and stable source of income to pay for fixed expenses such as rent, wages, and utilities. Both policies would also increase families’ choices of providers.

Building towards expanding affordable health care

The House bill contains important provisions for future creation of a MinnesotaCare Public Option.

Under a MinnesotaCare Public Option, Minnesotans struggling to find affordable health care but who don’t currently qualify could buy affordable, quality health coverage through MinnesotaCare (Minnesota’s public health insurance program) on a sliding scale premium. The House bill would require the state to submit a request to the federal government for approval to implement the Public Option, called a 1332 waiver. This is an important step in fleshing out the details and building towards a future in which every Minnesotan has quality, affordable health care.

New debt protections

The Commerce Conference Committee has finished its work, and agreed to legislation that includes increased protections for individuals against “coerced debt.” Coerced debt is debt that is a result of someone else using the debtor’s personal information without them knowing or giving consent, and/or debt accrued from force, intimidation, or coercion. The bill also includes provisions that lighten the burden of medical debt for Minnesotans. For example, debt collectors are now explicitly not allowed to publish a list of the people who have medical debt, or imply that medically necessary services could be denied because of debt. These kinds of protections are necessary to protect people against harmful debt collection practices and ensure that no matter the financial situation, individuals understand their rights and ability to access necessary medical care. The conference committee report now goes back for a final vote by both bodies of the Legislature, and if passed would go to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Policymakers should make the most out of the limited dollars allocated for policy changes this year to make smart and targeted decisions to improve the lives of everyday Minnesotans. The policy decisions mentioned above are all stepping stones designed to pave the way for a brighter future.