An easy choice for lawmakers: Affordable health insurance for 140,000 Minnesotans

Medicaid eligibility expansion is included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in 2010.

Everyone likes a good deal – and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is offering Minnesota. More than 140,000 Minnesotans can gain access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance – if the 2013 Legislature does the right thing.

Here’s the deal. The Affordable Care Act allows states to cover more people under Medicaid by expanding eligibility to nearly all non-elderly Minnesotans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line (that’s $20,879 for a couple). In Minnesota, that would allow more than 140,000 people to access health insurance coverage that helps them lead healthy lives – with the federal government picking up most of the cost.

Minnesota has a lot to gain from going forward with Medicaid expansion.

Minnesota will save money. The federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for newly eligible participants for the first three years, saving the state an estimated $1.0 billion from 2011 to 2015. Bringing additional federal dollars into Minnesota allows the state to focus its resources on other important needs.

While we pride ourselves on being ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation, Minnesota also has some of the largest gaps in health outcomes between whites and communities of color. The inability to get affordable health insurance is a significant contributor to these health disparities. Roughly one out of every three Hispanic Minnesotans and one out of four American Indians in Minnesota lack health insurance coverage. Expanding Medicaid will significantly improve these communities’ access to affordable coverage, contributing to better health outcomes for a growing proportion of our state’s population and improving the overall health of the state.

Everyone can benefit from increasing access to affordable health insurance for these Minnesotans. Many doctors and hospitals give care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Those unpaid medical bills are often shifted into higher costs for people with insurance. Allowing more low-income individuals to have health coverage through Medicaid will ensure that medical providers get paid for their services, keeping down costs for everyone.

Our new issue brief, Covering More Minnesotans through Medicaid Will Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce State Costs, looks into the details of how we can help families, reduce costs in the health care system and save the state money.

With so much on the line, this should be an easy decision for Minnesota.

This post was written by Caitlin Biegler and originally published on Minnesota Budget Bites.

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