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Rep. John Benson On Tax Reform, Teen Drug Treatment and Insurance Fraud

"Minnesota’s health care costs increase roughly 8.5 percent each year. This increase is well above inflation and is unsustainable."

Dear neighbors,

We had a particularly busy couple of weeks here in Saint Paul. We heard Governor Dayton’s State of the State address, the Public Safety Committee held three days of hearings, and I was busy working on several new pieces of legislation.

Government reform

Much of the discussion at the Capitol this session has centered on taxes: raising, lowering, and broadening them. While we need to have that conversation, we should not forget about continuing and expanding government reforms.

Currently, Minnesota’s health care costs increase roughly 8.5 percent each year. This increase is well above inflation and is unsustainable. Gov. Mark Dayton has introduced competitive bidding for state health care contracts to harness the power of the free market. This reform and other recent changes have saved Minnesota taxpayers more than $1 billion.

These reforms are a good start. The next step is to fundamentally redesign health care delivery and how we pay for it. The Minnesota Department of Human Services is starting a new partnership with six health care providers to test a new payment model that prioritizes quality, and prevention and rewards providers for achieving mutually agreed upon goals.

The initiative is expected to save taxpayers $90 million and provide better care for 100,000 Minnesotans over the next three years. I am hopeful this results-based system will be fully implemented across Minnesota in the near future—resulting in additional savings for taxpayers.

Reforming health care is an ongoing process. This session, I will embrace efforts to reform other state services including business permitting, pension programs, and early-childhood education. Making smart reforms will improve service quality and reduce costs for Minnesotans.

Drug treatment funding

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates, approximately 46,000 Minnesotan adolescents who require treatment for drug and alcohol abuse do not receive it each year.

We all know how substance abuse detrimentally impacts development of young people. To help address these concerns, I am co-authoring new legislation to increase funding for school-based substance abuse recovery programs.

The new funding would go to support the work of alcohol and chemical dependency counselors, school counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, and school social workers. The close proximity of school-based health professionals to kids puts them in the position to help adolescents struggling with substance abuse. 

Helping these kids overcome their drug and alcohol problems will help ensure they graduate from high school and become productive members of society. If you’re interested in learning more you can read the bill’s text online.

Insurance fraud

In recent years, Minnesota has seen a significant increase in insurance fraud. According to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, during the past the last four years, the rate of organized crime involvement in auto insurance fraud increased 230 percent in Minnesota.

Some data even suggests that the Russian Mafia has set up shop here in Minnesota to perpetrate insurance fraud. This increase in fraudulent activity ends up costing the consumer by driving premiums. At the State Legislature, we are beginning to have hearings on the topic and looking for ways to crack down on organized crime.

If you’re interested in reading more, here are links to Minnesota Public Radio and the Alexandria Echo Press stories on insurance fraud in Minnesota.

As always, it is an honor to serve as your representative. Please contact me with your questions, concerns, and ideas.

Sincerely,

John Benson

State Representative

Minnetonka – Plymouth

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