1. PAUL - After more than nine hours of debate, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the omnibus health and human services bill Thursday night. The bill proposes a host of changes, including an additional $128.64 million spending increase.

One of the major changes would provide child care assistance for “families who need child care to find or keep employment or to obtain the training or education necessary to find employment” and make less than 67% of the state median income. Child care is a growing concern of communities statewide, and this change has the potential to bolster families who struggle to fulfill that need.

The bill also includes increased regulations on child care center licensure and staff training.

Another significant change would mean greater availability of substance abuse treatment and psychiatric residential care. Much more mental health care accessibility would result from the bill’s passage, such as more resources and personnel in schools.

The bill also prohibits conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults. Conversion therapy is defined as “any practice by a mental health practitioner or mental health professional that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.” Extensive research has shown the practice to be not only ineffective, but psychologically harmful. If a non-vulnerable adult chooses to seek conversion therapy, their health care provider will not cover it.

Telemedicine services would be expanded under the bill, making medical treatment available to more Minnesotans.

The bill seeks to prevent pricing gouging on essential pharmaceutical drugs. Price gouging is a practice that involves initially selling a drug at a reasonable price and suddenly increasing the price dramatically to the point where patients cannot afford to buy medications they need to live. The bill says, in part, “Abuses in the pricing of various essential prescription drugs are well-documented, jeopardize the health and welfare of the public, and have caused the death of patients who could not afford to pay an unconscionable price for these drugs.”

Tobacco would also see some changes. The definition of tobacco products would be expanded to include e-cigarettes as it pertains to the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. The legal age for tobacco sale and purchase would be increased to 21.

The bill proposes requiring health plans to cover contraceptive methods and services, and prohibits health insurance providers from imposing cost-sharing requirements for contraceptive methods and services.

The extensive bill includes many other changes to health and human services, totaling more than 1,100 pages.

District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverme, voted against the bill. District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, was not present on the House floor when the vote was called.

The next step is the bill’s consideration by the Senate. Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, will sponsor the bill in that chamber.