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Effort to expand access to Minnesota’s Medical Assistance program praised

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson praised lawmakers and the Dayton administration on Wednesday for working to enroll more low-income Minnesotans on public health programs available under the federal reform law.

Democrats are moving forward quickly with legislation this session to expand eligibility for the state's Medical Assistance program to offer 145,000 Minnesotans improved health care, Jesson said during a conference call with reporters.

Gov. Mark Dayton expanded eligibility for the state Medicaid program shortly after taking office, and this move — which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed optional — brings Minnesota further in line with the Affordable Care Act.

“It makes all the sense in the world to exercise that option,” Jesson said.    

The legislation expands Medical Assistance eligibility for single childless adults who have income of up to 138 percent of the poverty line. It would move about 50,000 people off the MinnesotaCare program and offer the uninsured an easier conduit to picking up coverage.

Jesson said the administration expects to capture significant federal funding for the program, which would save Minnesota money in the long term.

She called passing the MA opt-in “the easiest decision facing the legislature this session.”

But with the dramatic increase in people seeking primary care, Jesson said the state still faces challenges recruiting and retaining enough doctors and dentists.

The administration expects Minnesota to save money, though, because much of the low-income population this legislation would serve already seeks expensive emergency care as a last resort.

The bill will be heard in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon and in the House on Thursday morning.

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