DFL leaders on health care released a wide range of legislative proposals Monday, including setting up 24-hour emergency dental clinics and birthing centers for deliveries, and said the long-term savings would climb into hundreds of millions of dollars.

But they acknowledged that some initiatives would initially cost money, a likely source of conflict in a session focused on erasing a $4.6 billion budget deficit. Last week DFL Senate leaders introduced a plan that would cut $2.4 billion in state spending over two years and raise $2 billion in new revenue, in part perhaps by increasing income taxes on the affluent.

"We have a system that is a 'sick-care system' that does a really great job of taking care of people in hospitals that are really sick, but it does a lousy job of rewarding providers that keep people from getting really, really sick," said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, chairman of a health care finance committee.

Huntley and Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said without continued reforms, Minnesota would spend $50 billion a year on health care by 2015. Other measures proposed: eliminating duplicative lab work, no longer paying for medical errors, discouraging what legislators said was an overuse of Caesarean section deliveries, and having government and private providers buy medical supplies in bulk.

"I'm looking for savings over a four-year period. As you know, sometimes it takes a little while to get something new started up," said Berglin, who said more definitive savings figures from the initiatives were still being finalized.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said while the initiatives looked promising, he would need to be convinced they would provide long-term savings. "We pass these bills and all these programs and we wait for the savings to come and they never materialize," he said. "I would like to see some concrete examples of real money being saved."

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388