MMA sets 2015 legislative priorities

[MMA News Now, Dec. 11, 2014] On Dec. 8, the MMA Board of Trustee’s executive committee signed off on six priorities for the upcoming legislative session. They include: reforming the prior authorization process; extending the primary care payment bump within the Medical Assistance program; increasing funding for loan forgiveness for newly graduated physicians who practice primary care in rural and under-served areas; supporting legislation that expedites multi-state licensure; further regulating e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products; and continuing support for the provider tax repeal. “Each session, we comb through thousands of bills so it’s good to set some direction up front,” said Dave Renner, the MMA’s director of state and federal legislation. “It’s likely other issues will pop up but these are the issues we will be promoting with legislators.” Here’s a breakdown on the priorities: • Prior authorization is a major hassle for physicians and patients. The MMA will be promoting legislation to increase disclosure and transparency related to medication prior authorization requirements that limit patient access to needed drugs. The MMA is also looking at limiting the types of prior authorization and how it can be used. • The Affordable Care Act increased Medicaid payments to the Medicare level for certain primary care services for two years. The increased payment is approximately 20 percent for evaluation and management codes but the increase ends at the end of 2014. The MMA will advocate for continuing the payment bump into the future. • Minnesota has loan forgiveness programs for physicians willing to practice in rural and underserved urban areas. If physicians commit to at least three years at one of these locations they can receive $25,000 per year in loan forgiveness for up to four years. The MMA team will advocate for a bill to increase state funding to $1.295 million and target the new funding to primary care physicians. • The Federation of State Licensing Boards has created a new system to expedite physician licensure for those who want to practice in multiple states. The legislation will authorize the creation of a national commission that will review physician eligibility and assist with the licensure by the other states. This will also help with those practicing via telemedicine. • Tobacco and nicotine dependence remain a problem in Minnesota. While last year’s Legislature increased regulations on e-cigarettes more needs to be done. The MMA will pursue additional safeguards for clean indoor air by prohibiting vaping in bars and restaurants as well as push for limiting sales of flavored tobacco products to minors. • The 2 percent provider tax, also known as the sick tax, is scheduled for repeal at the end of 2019. The MMA remains committed to its repeal and will be working in 2015 to remind legislators that is must go away.