Minnesota House Democrats have outlined the $150 million in cuts they plan to make to the Health and Human Services budget.

"Cutting $150 million from this budget was not a desirable or easy task, but we have achieved our goal of making significant reductions in the HHS budget while protecting the most vulnerable Minnesotans," House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Chairman Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said in a statement issued as his committee took up a public review of the omnibus budget bill.

The massive HHS Omnibus bill runs for 474 pages and outlines the $13.2 billion budget for health and human services for the state for the next two years. That money funds services for some of the poorest, sickest and oldest people in the state, everything from childcare to nursing homes and food assistance for needy families.

Some of the cuts will be covered by increased spending in other areas. If the Legislature approves all-day kindergarten this year, that could mean fewer children on welfare who need state-subsidized child care. The budget also cuts $66 million by changes in payments to managed care providers, and $93 million through "targeted reductions to existing programs and reforms of services in areas like dental and prescription drugs."

When the House and Senate leadership targeted the HHS budget for cuts, it brought hundreds of protesters to the Capitol, including worried caretakers who feared the cuts would fall on their salaries. Tuesday's bill calls for a 2 percent cost of living for long-term care providers, who have not seen a raise in almost five years.

The bill also includes $100 million in hospital surcharges; which the budget expects to be offset by the a $1 billion increase in federal funding to Minnesota hospitals as part of the ongoing federal healthcare overhaul. Even with the surcharges, the committee press release states, hospitals will see an $800 million increase in state and federal funding over the next four years.


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