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.
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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