Minnesota hospitals 'in trouble' if current bills become law, CEOs say

A group of CEOs and other leaders from hospitals and health systems are warning that nonprofit hospitals are "in trouble" if bills in Minnesota related to nurse staffing levels and healthcare costs become law. 

In an opinion piece published May 8 by the Star Tribune, the leaders cite challenges facing Minnesota hospitals and health systems, including financial strain and a workforce shortage. They argue that several bills on the verge of passing the state legislature will worsen the situation.

"If these bills pass as they are written, Minnesota's nonprofit hospitals are in trouble," CEOs wrote. "This is not hyperbole. These proposals would negatively impact hospital care including mandating new committees to determine the day-to-day management of our hospitals, handing decision making authority for care delivery to external lawyers, fixing prices for hospital care, and limiting flexibility for healthcare partnerships."

They also argue that the bills will increase costs and hinder people's ability to access high-quality healthcare. 

The hospital and health system leaders urge lawmakers to focus on other efforts, including expanding the nursing education loan forgiveness program and investing in education efforts that support the future healthcare workforce pipeline.

At issue is the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, which would require hospitals to form hospital nurse staffing committees to set staffing levels. The state would evaluate each hospital's compliance with its own staffing plan.

Another bill at issue establishes the Health Care Affordability Board to address high healthcare costs. The board would monitor costs and set targets to limit costs, according to an article posted on the Minnesota House of Representatives website

On May 5, the Minnesota Reformer reported that Mayo Clinic — whose CEO, Gianrico Farrugia, MD, was among the authors of the Star Tribune op-ed — is considering pulling billions in investments from Minnesota over the two bills.

Amy Williams, MD, chair of the Midwest Clinical Practice Committee for Mayo Clinic, previously shared the following statement with Becker's: "At the heart of this is legislation we believe will negatively impact access to care and our ability to transform healthcare to support our staff and meet the evolving needs of our patients. Like any responsible organization, we must evaluate the legislative and regulatory environment in the places we operate. Mayo has been working to address these concerns for months and is committed to transparently sharing the impacts of these policy decisions. We will continue working with leaders on a bill that is in the best interests of patients, the state and Mayo Clinic."

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which supports the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, criticized the Rochester, Minn.-based health system for its stance. 

Nurses say Mayo is using "anti-worker tactics" and that understaffing is putting patient care at risk, according to a union news release. 

"I just feel like Mayo is holding our patients and the people of Minnesota hostage, holding the nurses hostage," said MNA President Mary Turner, RN, according to ABC affiliate WDIO. "And to have it now come to this point, that Mayo can just use their corporate power and money and influence."

Minnesota Sen. Carla Nelson also recently spoke out about the issue.

"[Mayo Clinic] is the gold standard of healthcare and it would be truly unfortunate if information from this legislative session, bills passed that would deter and diminish Mayo's continued growth in the area," she said, according to CBS affiliate KIMT.

Ms. Nelson also said she supports a nurse licensure compact to allow for more nurses to be hired, instead of government oversight to limit nurse-to-patient ratios, according to the TV station.

The current Minnesota legislative session runs through May 22.

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