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Updated: Kelliher, Pogemiller say statute prohibits shift of GAMC enrollees to MinnesotaCare; DHS disagrees

When all else fails, cite the Minnesota Constitution, state statute and a pending state Supreme Court case on unallotment.
DFL legislators are trying another tack to stop Gov.

When all else fails, cite the Minnesota Constitution, state statute and a pending state Supreme Court case on unallotment.

DFL legislators are trying another tack to stop Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration from auto-enrolling General Assistance Medical Care enrollees into transitional MinnesotaCare on April 1.

A letter sent this morning to Commissioner of Human Services Cal Ludeman instructs him to “not make any expenditure of state funding nor incur any expense related to the automatic transitioning of people enrolled” in GAMC to MinnesotaCare. GAMC, which serves impoverished adults without children, runs out of money on March 31.

In their letter to Ludeman [PDF], Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller cite Article III of the state Constitution and state statute:

“Expenditures of funds for this purpose, as detailed by the Department in its November 6, 2009, news release, has [sic] not been authorized and no funds have been appropriated by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota, pursuant to Article III of the Minnesota Constitution.”

Last week, Pawlenty vetoed a bill to reform and restore the General Assistance Medical Care, a state-funded program that serves about 36,000 adults in any given month.

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Even though all but nine House Republicans voted for the DFL-sponsored bill, the Republican caucus has said it will not vote to override the governor. DFLers need three votes to form a supermajority to override the governor.

Advocates for the poor as well as hospitals have testified at legislative committee hearings that MinnesotaCare is not a suitable program for GAMC recipients — about a third of whom are homeless — because of its premiums, co-pays and caps on hospitalization.

Kelliher and Pogemiller cite statute 256D.03. “Enrollment in ‘Transitional MinnesotaCare’ is based on an implied categorical eligibility as described in the statutory language … which states, ‘Immediately following approval of general assistance medical care, enrollees shall be enrolled in MinnesotaCare.’ ”     

They also refer to the lack of funds available after March 31 since Pawlenty used a line-item veto and unallotment last year to cut $396 million in funding for GAMC and speed up its demise. And they hint that Ludeman was not acting within the law when he announced that GAMC enrollees would be “automatically transitioned” to MinnesotaCare:

“Under no provision of enacted session law or statute is authority described or appropriations made allowing the enrollees described in … to be ‘automatically’ transitioned.”

They also say that administrative action related to the unallotment “would be premature,” given that the Minnesota Supreme Court is expected to rule March 15 on a separate case challenging the governor’s unallotment of another program.

Updated: Ludeman issued a response to the DFL leaders this afternoon: “While I appreciate your opinion, I respectfully disagree. It is clear this administrative action is fully compliant” with the statute.

I asked his spokeswoman to explain why he thinks the action is compliant, and this is the response I received at 4:50 p.m.: “Sorry, but we don’t have anything more for you today.”

Ludeman notes that the Department of Human Services will “proceed with the transition to Minnesota Care … in order to ensure current GAMC enrollees maintain health care coverage.”