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Time for Minnesota to move forward on health care reform

Minnesota Budget Bites
Protect the law protests
CC/Flickr/SEIU International
With President Obama's reelection the Affordable Care Act is not under threat of repeal, but states still must take action to implement it fully.

With the June Supreme Court decision and 2012 presidential election behind us, it is now clear that the nation’s health reform law – the Affordable Care Act – is here to stay. That’s great news for Minnesotans. Many have already begun to benefit from the law, including young adults who are now able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. And many more Minnesotans will be able to access affordable health insurance as other major provisions take effect in 2014.

However, to reap the Affordable Care Act’s biggest gains and bring affordable health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans, our state policymakers must move quickly to be ready for 2014.

Last month, we released an issue brief describing how 140,000 Minnesotans can access quality health care if policymakers act to expand Medicaid. The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that expanding Medicaid will save the state $1.0 billion from 2011 through 2015 because the federal government will pick up the vast majority of the cost. And covering more Minnesotans through Medicaid will save money in other ways, especially by reducing what’s spent providing health care in emergency rooms and health clinics to people without insurance.

That’s a bargain we can’t pass up.

The time has come for action. This Thursday, the Access Work Group of the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force will vote on whether to recommend that the state cover nearly all non-elderly individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line through Medicaid (that’s income of $15,415 for an individual, or $20,879 for a couple). Recommendations from the Work Group and Task Force will inform Governor Dayton and the Legislature as they take up health care reform in the 2013 Legislative Session.

A “yes” vote from the Work Group will keep Minnesota moving forward on improving access to affordable health insurance. If Minnesota fails to expand Medicaid, it will not only increase costs for the state, for people with private insurance and for health care providers, it will also leave tens of thousands of Minnesotans struggling to get the health care they need.

This post was written by Christina Wessel and originally published on Minnesota Budget Bites.

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