ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two huge, nonpartisan health advocacy nonprofits are coming out in favor of making Minnesota's provider tax permanent to protect the state's popular Health Care Access Fund.
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society are joining the state's hospitals in lobbying lawmakers not to let the 2 percent provider tax expire at the end of the year. Justin Bell, vice president for health strategies with the Heart Association, said they didn't want to get into the issue. But he said unless lawmakers act, the Access Fund - a big reason Minnesota has a high level of health coverage - could be at risk.
“(It’s) A stable funding source for public programs like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, which is how over a million people in Minnesota access health care,” Bell said. “The programs themselves are too important, and we haven't seen a viable alternative."
The state medical association argued providers should not carry the full burden of paying - and just as importantly, the headache of administering - the tax. It brings in between $600 million and $700 million a year, but will sunset at the end of December unless lawmakers act.
According to the American Cancer Society, the provider tax and the access fund mean more than health insurance for low- and moderate-income folks. Emily Myatt, government relations director for the Cancer Society, said they fund important prevention efforts - reducing obesity and tobacco use, and providing key early screenings for people who otherwise might not be connected to health care.
"We know that cancer patients who are uninsured when diagnosed with cancer are 60 percent more likely to die,” Myatt said. “If the provider tax sunsets, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans are going to be at risk of losing their health-care coverage."
On Tuesday, the Heart Association will host a Twitter chat. The group encouraged the public to find out more by following the hashtag #DontLetTheSunSet at noon.
Information from the Minnesota Department of Human Services is available at mn.gov/dhs.