Sviggum, Pawlenty’s budget guy, disputes media coverage of Medicaid opt-in provision

The Pawlenty administration is not going to go quietly into political history books.

This morning, the state’s temporary, fill-in commissioner of Management and Budget, Steve Sviggum, issued a statement criticizing the media for “incomplete coverage’’ of the promise of Gov.-elect Mark Dayton to quickly sign on to the federal Medicaid program that will allow the state to get more health insurance to more people for less state cost.

Dayton, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, DFL legislators and most health care professionals have said this component of the new national health care program will not only save the state money but also will save jobs and keep hospitals in rural areas of the state open.

Sviggum begs to differ. He says that because of the matching-fund element of the program, receiving $1.1 billion in federal dollars will cost the state in the next biennium.

“Pursuing this component of Obamacare will cost the state $384 million in FY 2012-13,’’ Sviggum wrote. “As the commissioner ultimately responsible for the state’s $30 billion general fund budget, it is critical that any policy discussion of that budget be checked against the books kept at Minnesota Management and Budget.’’

In other words, the Pawlenty administration isn’t arguing that more people would get better coverage and that more people in the health care industry would be employed and that more hospitals would stay open. It’s arguing that the matching element of the program will increase the budget deficit.

But that argument was lost with Dayton’s election. He had made it clear — as had Horner — throughout the campaign that he would sign up Minnesota for the federal program as soon as he took office.

Pawlenty had rejected the federal money, a move many believed was more about his national political ambitions and his opposition to the new federal health care program than about the benefits for the state.

Wrote Sviggum: “As this population (the poor) migrates into Medicaid from MinnesotaCare, it is true that there are savings in MinnesotaCare and the Health Care Acess Fund, but only a portion of these savings can be used to defray the cost of the program in the General Fund. That is because the Health Care Access Fund has a deficit of its own.’’

Pawlenty long has argued that the rising cost of health care for the poor was an “unsustainable’’ portion of the Minnesota budget. But rather than turn to federal dollars, his solution was to cut the number of people being served and cut funds being paid to health care providers.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply