While much of the Legislature's focus this week has been on the coronavirus pandemic, Senators passed a bill on Thursday that authorizes doctors to give prescriptions for erectile dysfunction via virtual visits.
The bill was first proposed by Sens. Jeff Howe (R-Sartell) and Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), with Howe arguing during Thursday's floor vote that the bill is aimed at returning soldiers suffering from PTSD, and said addressing the ED they suffer may help reduce veteran suicides.
After a period of time when lawmakers have been on recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic – returning only to pass coronavirus support bills – Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said that Thursday marked a return to "normal" scheduling, taking up a raft of bills that had been due to pass prior to the outbreak.
Nonetheless, the timing of a Special Order vote on the erectile dysfunction bill, which was first proposed last year, raised some eyebrows from lawmakers including Sen. Jeff Hayden (D-Minneapolis).
While it can be argued that the ED bill has relevance in current COVID-19 times given it relates to telemedicine, which has become increasingly important during coronavirus-related lockdowns, Hayden suggested there are more pressing, pandemic-related issues facing lawmakers right now.
He argued the bill could have formed part of an omnibus bill rather than getting its own debate, and suggested it would be better use of their time to focus on business micro loans and helping communities in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 63-3, with only a few Democrats including Hayden voting against it, but nonetheless a Senate DFL source said that while the party believes all Minnesotans should be able to access the care they need, they would prefer to focus on addressing the health care gaps facing Minnesotans during the ongoing statewide emergency.
This includes COVID-19 treatment coverage for uninsured patients, support for disability service providers, and helping Critical Access Dental providers.
A Senate GOP spokeswoman told BMTN that COVID-19 related bills are still a priority, but the ED bill was already destined for a floor vote prior to the emergency and early recess being declared.
"We're sort of picking up where we left off," she added, noting that expanded telehealth options is also "something that seems relevant given the current situation."