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Minnesota's health maintenance organizations would be subject to annual, independent financial audits under a bill that cleeared the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on Tuesday. The proposal, sponsored by GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt and DFL Rep. Carolyn Laine, cleared the committee on a voice vote.

Bill requiring independent audits of health plans passes HHS committee

Rep. Steve Gottwalt (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Minnesota’s health maintenance organizations would be subject to annual, independent financial audits under a bill that cleared the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on Tuesday. The proposal, sponsored by GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt and DFL Rep. Carolyn Laine, passed on a voice vote.

Testimony was almost universally in favor of the bill. “We believe a thorough, no-holds-barred audit of the contracts between DHS and the health plans is greatly needed,” said Jim Reimann, testifying on behalf of the Minnesota Medical Group Management Association.
“We urge you to make such a requirement a session priority.”

More than a dozen bills designed to increase transparency and accountability for the state’s Medicaid program have been introduced in the last two legislative sessions. However, this marked the first time that any of the bills actually came up for a vote.  The state’s HMOs — primarily Medica, HealthPartners, UCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield — receive roughly $7 billion per biennium to provide health care coverage to poor individuals and families.

Earlier this month DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson revealed that the federal government has been investigating Minnesota’s Medicaid program since last summer. On Thursday U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to the state’s Medicaid director seeking additional information about how it is regulated.

Dave Feinwachs, former general counsel of the Minnesota Hospital Association, who has been a vigorous advocate for increased HMO transparency, praised the audit legislation. “Thank you for the bipartisanship,” Feinwachs said. “This is not an issue that is unique to Minnesota.”

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