Updated: DFL legislators will pitch plan to restore GAMC

Three key DFL legislators have come up with a temporary 16-month fix to restore some funding for General Assistance Medical Care for impoverished adults so that the program doesn’t run out of money March 1.

Senate Health Finance Division Chair Linda Berglin, House Health Finance Division Chair Tom Huntley and House Assistant Majority Leader Erin Murphy will present their plan at a press conference at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Rm. 125 of the State Capitol.

“It’s a number of strategies but the major one is a Medicaid surcharge on hospitals and HMOs,” Sen. Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said today. The plan draws from existing pots of money that GAMC has earned like federal disproportionate share dollars for hospitals and drug rebates, she said.   

The plan also makes some people ineligible for GAMC, including jail inmates, pregnant women (who would be eligible for other public programs), and those who “refuse to cooperate with the process of applying for disability,” she said. Disabled adults without children are eligible for Medicaid funding.  

Since Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto to strike $381 million in second-year funding for GAMC and unallotted another $15 million, legislators, social justice advocates, hospital CEOs and other stakeholders have been trying to come up with a way to restore some GAMC funding that is veto-proof and unallotment-proof.

About 36,000 poor adults without dependent children are currently enrolled in GAMC.

While the Pawlenty administration has announced plans to automatically transfer this group to the MinnesotaCare program for low-income working adults, the DFL plan would stop that enrollment by restoring GAMC, Berglin said. Critics have said MinnesotaCare isn’t the best solution for GAMC enrollees because it relies on premiums and co-pays, and it has a $10,000 cap on inpatient hospitalizations.

The fix takes care of the rest of the current biennium, she said. “We believe the full program comes back because it’s in the statutes. The governor can’t veto the statute — he can just veto the funding.”

By the time the next biennium rolls around, Pawlenty will be out of office. A couple years later, national health reform could be in place — including an expansion of Medicaid, which would pick up the bulk of the costs for adults without dependent children.

Berglin said she and her colleagues hope to meet with Department of Human Services officials on Friday and with Republican lawmakers in the next several weeks. “We felt like it was important before too much more of December got away from us to just make our plan public.”

More details of the plan including the cost will be divulged at Thursday’s press conference, she said. The Senate will have a live webcast of the hearing.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/10/2009 - 03:53 pm.

    Veto proof and unallotment proof? The legislature could, if it would, vote to pass John Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan in January AND override the ensuing veto. This would:

    1) Take funding out of the hands of budget-makers (who – like Pawlenty – sometimes serve an ideology instead of us)and end all possibility of future cuts by any governor or legislature;

    2) Ensure equal access to regular health care for every Minnesota resident – rich, poor or in between – with no deductibles or co-pays and covering everything you and your doctor consider medically necessary;

    3) Free Minnesota businesses forever from the burden of purchasing health insurance for employees AND employees from the annual shift in cost from their companies to them as insurance companies raise their premiums;

    4) Finance health care with a progressive income tax on individuals and business and with premiums based on the ability of individuals/families to pay;

    5) Show the other 49 states how to do it right.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/11/2009 - 08:31 am.

    Note: I don’t mean this as a criticism of the three legislators who put this plan forward although it MIGHT sound like that. It is a criticism only of the policies that made this sound move on their part necessary.

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