In 2024 session, policymakers progress toward improving health care and child care

Jessie Luévano
May 29, 2024

While 2024 was not a budget-setting year for the state, policymakers made use of the limited resources they had to build on last year’s transformational investments and took steps to set the state up for a brighter future.

This blog takes a look at the policy and budget decisions made this year to make affordable health care and child care available to more Minnesotans.

Making child care systems work better for families and providers

This year, child care affordability continued to rise to the top as a priority for many Minnesotans. We and our partners advocated for exciting and innovative policies, such as Great Start Scholarships, through which more Minnesota families could afford the child care that meets their needs. While Great Start Scholarships themselves did not make it across the finish line this session, important changes to improve existing child care systems did.

The Education Supplemental Budget Bill included improvements to Early Learning Scholarships. These scholarships are an important resource for lower-income families to be able to afford child care; in FY 2023, scholarships reached more than 12,000 children. The system improvements include:

  1. Paying child care providers prospectively. Once implemented in January 2026, providers could receive payments for child care services in advance or at the beginning of the child’s enrollment.

  2. Paying child care providers based on enrollment. Providers will receive funds based on how many children participating in early learning scholarships are enrolled in their facility, rather than the number of days those children attend.

  3. Allocating funding for IT systems. In order to implement the changes to Early Learning Scholarships, the Legislature reallocated an additional $7 million to create these systems and $2.4 million annually to maintain them.

Child care providers are finding it tough to keep their doors open. These policies passed this session support provider stability by providing funding on a more consistent and stable basis that providers can use to cover expenses such as rent, wages, and utilities. The implementation funding will help make sure these policy changes are enacted and run smoothly. These investments in strengthening child care providers will ultimately increase the ability for families to pick an affordable provider who will meet their needs.

Working towards more affordable health care

Last year, policymakers passed funding for design and potentially beginning implementation of a MinnesotaCare public option to expand access to affordable health care to folks who currently fall through the cracks. While legislation to fill in more details of the MinnesotaCare Public Option itself did not pass this session, policymakers and the administration had robust conversations during the session that could lead to the development of a 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.

Putting in place new debt protections

The Commerce Policy Bill included increased protections for individuals against both coerced debt and medical 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. Protections enacted this session explicitly ban medical debt collectors from publishing a list of people who have debt. Further protections include mandating that health care providers publicize their medical debt policies and requiring providers to provide medically necessary care to individuals regardless 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 policies enacted this year are steppingstones that policymakers should build on in 2025 so that all Minnesotans can get the health care and child care that they want for their families.