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House GOP’s proposal to eliminate MinnesotaCare is not up for debate in HHS conference committee

Currently, more than 90,000 Minnesotans rely on Minnesota Care for affordable health insurance

The Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus finance bills are now in conference committee, and while I look forward to reaching a compromise with our House counterparts, it’s important to note something that’s not up for negotiation: the House GOP’s proposal to eliminate MinnesotaCare.

Sen. Tony Lourey

MinnesotaCare is an important program that helps low-income working families receive quality health care and has worked for Minnesotans since it was enacted in 1992. Currently, more than 90,000 Minnesotans rely on the program for affordable health insurance – and I refuse to leave our own citizens behind.

We currently have a $1.9 billion budget surplus, yet House Republicans still want to cut over $1 billion to health care services for hospitals, workers, and seniors – forcing more than 90,000 from their health care coverage, all to pay for tax giveaways that the state cannot afford. As chair of the Senate HHS Budget Division, I speak for my fellow members and constituents when I say that priorities should be placed on everyday Minnesotans, not eliminating successful programs in an effort to provide tax cuts to the wealthy.

Moreover, House Republicans are utilizing shifts and gimmicks in their overall HHS budget to meet their cut target, and the investments they actually do provide for are absolutely unsustainable. The questionable dollar amounts used to fund this massive cut are deceptive to Minnesota’s most vulnerable populations, who rely on programs the House GOP claims to fund.

Protecting residents in Greater Minnesota

The majority of those who rely on these programs reside in Greater Minnesota, and the House Republicans vowed in their 2014 campaigns to place an emphasis on protecting our rural communities. Based on what we’ve seen this year in the Legislature, those promises have not been kept, and the exact opposite – taking away from our working class in Greater MN and giving to the business elite – has been the new normal. While the House GOP may not have followed through with their promises, I want our rural constituents to rest assured that we will protect and defend them from such self-serving schemes.   

The Senate HHS Budget Bill makes $341 million in new investments in long-term care workforce needs, mental health initiatives, improvements to the state’s child protection system, improving access to health care for persons with disabilities and seniors, and many more initiatives that we can be proud of. It is fair and balanced, and we hope that our House counterparts will learn a thing or two about affordable health care for ALL Minnesotans, rural or metro.

Time to deliver

House leadership can and should do better than this shortsighted, illusory approach to passing an extremely harmful budget bill. The House Republicans campaigned on the premise of protecting our most vulnerable, and it’s time to deliver. For starters: stop threatening to abolish MinnesotaCare and acknowledge its importance in providing working Minnesota families with affordable health care.

I refuse to give up on those who rely on us to make responsible decisions. While the House Republicans may not keep their promises, I can promise you this: MinnesotaCare is not going anywhere.

State Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/06/2015 - 09:56 am.

    I Was Skeptical but Hopeful

    When our Republican friends, including my own Senator and House members promised they would protect and help the folks out here in rural Minnesota during this legislative session.

    I am tremendously disappointed (though, sadly, not surprised) that they have elected, instead, to protect their “trickle down,” punish-the-poor, ideology,…

    aiming precisely at doing damage to their poorest constituents out here in the rural areas,…

    AND the poorest folk in our state’s urban areas,…

    spending down our rainy day funds (at a time of surplus!),…

    and borrowing money that their budget GUARANTEES we will struggle to pay back in the future,…

    all to pursue their misguided and unholy ideological agenda of bankrupting the government to force serious future cuts in desperately needed programs,…

    programs that will be needed EVEN MORE as the baby boomers reach retirement and their health and well being inevitably declines.

    They LIED to us about what they intended to do if we elected them,…

    have done and will do NOTHING to help us,…

    will stand in the way of the DFLers trying to help us,…

    then LIE about that, too.

    Just the same old, same old Republican B.S.

    We’re morons (or insane) if we keep re-electing these people thinking that THIS time they’ll set their extreme ideology aside and do anything that’s even remotely useful to the vast majority of citizens in our state,…

    whether we live in rural, small town, small city, suburban, or rural areas.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/06/2015 - 09:57 am.

    Wait a minute

    We thought MNsure was going to solve all that.

    The purpose of MinnesotaCare was to ensure that the 95,000 low-income people who made too much to qualify for Medicaid would still have access to affordable health insurance. But wasn’t that supposedly solved by Obamacare and MNsure? So then why do we still need MinnesotaCare?

    What’s more, MNsure could offer these folks more choices than MinnesotaCare does. Isn’t that better?

    Minnesota republicans pointed out that there was no need to spend billions of dollars on a system to provide health insurance for low-income people because we already had MinnesotaCare and it was working just fine. But nooooo! Mark Dayton insisted we build MNsure because the national party in Washington said he must.

    So tell me again why we need a redundant system. Are we admitting that one of the two isn’t working?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/06/2015 - 12:28 pm.

      The MinnesotaCare insurance is less expensive for the very-low income earners than the Obamacare option.

      So are you working to push up the Obamacare subsidy?

      Or is this just another case of Republicans pretending to care about the working poor while taking more money out of their pocket to fund tax cuts for the wealthy?

      http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/189940801.html

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/06/2015 - 01:20 pm.

        I oppose redundant systems

        It seems to me that most people would prefer one system that solves the problem, unless of course you don’t care where the money comes from.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/06/2015 - 02:40 pm.

          So, in opposition to redundant systems, I suppose you support universal coverage via a single-payer system.

          I congratulate you on your zeal for efficiency.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/06/2015 - 03:23 pm.

            I’m in favor

            of people buying their own insurance on the open market just like car insurance. If people need help doing so, I’m not opposed to helping needy people buy insurance on the open market with a taxpayer subsidy.

            I’m not for government running the health care business, the insurance part of it or anything else. Their abysmal record (see the VA) is only part of the reason. The government doesn’t belong in the health insurance business anymore than it belongs in the car insurance business. Let the markets work.

            • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/06/2015 - 04:28 pm.

              Most abysmal record by far

              Private health insurance; only those insurers have profited and that industry has prevented more coverage than it has provided. Why do you think the U.S. has some of the highest medical insurance costs in the world. And BTW drop that silly idea that health insurance is like car insurance. Poor and middle class people have an infinitely smaller chance of obtaining the old private health insurance than car insurance.

            • Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 05/06/2015 - 06:06 pm.

              The VA isn’t the model for single payer, Medicare is

              and Medicare has proven to be a very efficient provider of health insurance coverage. “On a historical basis, Medicare spending per enrollee grew at an average annual rate of 7.7% between 1969 and 2012, slower than the 9.2% average annual growth rate in private health insurance spending per enrollee (this comparison includes benefits commonly covered by Medicare and private health insurance over this period, including hospital services, physician and clinical services, and other professional services, and durable medical products) . . . “On a per capita basis, Medicare spending is projected to grow at a slower rate between 2013 and 2022 than it did between 2000 and 2012 (4.0% vs. 6.1%) (Exhibit 4). Medicare spending also is projected to grow more slowly than private health insurance spending on a per capita basis in the coming years. According to CBO, in the coming decade (2015-2024), the rate of Medicare per capita spending growth will be roughly in line with growth in GDP per capita, while private health insurance premiums are expected to grow 2 percentage points faster.” Kaiser Foundation.

  3. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 05/06/2015 - 09:58 am.

    Thank you

    We need Democrats to stand firm on basic commitments to a decent society. As you say, we have a budget surplus, so why should programs that serve our citizens well be slashed.

    But these days, the GOP only has one answer to everything: tax cuts. There’s an old saying, that if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And the GOP wants to pound just about everyone except for their wealthy donor class.

    Minnesota is better than that, and I think our state Republicans will learn in 2016 that they (once again) are significantly overplaying their hand.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 05/06/2015 - 12:02 pm.

    I agree with Mr Tester, if we have MNsure why do we need MinnesotaCare? How does duplicating programs help? Shouldn’t the debate be between which program delivers the best product to low-income folks in the metro and outstate. Find out which is best and eliminate the other.

  5. Submitted by Stephen Phillips on 05/06/2015 - 05:14 pm.

    Not program duplication – by any stretch of the imagination

    MinnesotaCare provides coverage for those at the very lowest income levels… those who cannot afford the thousands in deductibles and substantial copays that even those policies offering the least amount of coverages charge.

    In my region of the state, not a singe Gold or Platinum level plan was offered: Not a single insurer was willing to provide one, though they WERE available in adjacent counties, just 20 miles away!

    Which meant substantially lower benefits – with higher copays and deductibles – for those in one of the largest, most sparsely populated counties in the state… far and away, beyond the means of those who could barely afford the modest monthly income-based premiums of MinnesotaCare.

    Untll such time as something closer to a universal, single-payer program is in place – as most other western, industrialized nations have prudently implemented – those with coverage under MinnesotaCare will never have a more affordable option to protect their families.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 05/06/2015 - 07:32 pm.

      The promise of Obamacare (MNsure) was to cover exactly the low-income folks we are talking about with subsidies and offer Gold, Silver also. That was how it was sold along with saving us all $2,500 a year.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/08/2015 - 11:54 am.

        Unfortunately, the ACA was written

        with too much input from the insurance companies.

        Obama bent over backwards to get the Republicans to sign on, to the extent of dropping the public option and allowing high deductibles and age-based pricing.

        I could have gone along with it if he had put the insurance companies on a choke chain, raised their loss ratio to 90% (still healthy earnings), and banned high deductibles, but he gave the insurance companies everything they asked for and made the large Progressive Caucus (which wanted single payer but was willing to settle for a public option) kowtow to the much smaller Blue Dog Caucus (which whined and stamped their collective feet till they a system based entirely on compulsory private insurance)–and the Republicans still rejected the ACA.

        The insurance companies don’t offer Gold and Silver policies everywhere *because they aren’t required to.*

  6. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 05/06/2015 - 05:54 pm.

    But most Americans don’t buy their health insurance at all

    Most Americans get their health insurance through their employer. If you forced them to pay for their own health insurance from an open market you would see open rebellion. I am self employed, I do purchase my own insurance on the open market. Most people I know get their insurance through their employer and they have NO idea how much it costs, nor do they understand the significant tax break (subsidy) that they receive by getting their health insurance through their employer. If everyone lost the benefit of group health insurance those currently on group policies through their employers would see significant premium increases as well as they move to individual policies. So, as someone who is relegated to the private health insurance market I say go for it – force everyone off their employer provided group policies and into the private health insurance market. I am eager to see the chaos that follows.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/07/2015 - 10:05 am.

      Most buy insurance through employer subsidized group plans which are private. As with Obamacare, there are several levels of coverage available, and one must carefully inspect each for the cost \ benefit ratio that best fits their needs. They know what it costs; it’s right there in the plan description.

      If chaos is your cup of tea you won’t have to wait long, as Obamacare’s employer mandate starts to kick in this year and next, and once again, hundreds of thousands of people find themselves cut adrift.

  7. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 05/07/2015 - 10:16 am.

    An effective anti-poverty program

    If you’re on Medical Assistance and see a bump in income that makes you ineligible for MA, paying for private insurance will make you worse off financially than you were before. MinnesotaCare is a much-needed bridge and a very effective anti-poverty program.

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