State officials had little progress to report after a conference call Tuesday with the feds about securing funding for MinnesotaCare, a well-regarded public health program for the working poor.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson were supposed to travel to Washington Tuesday morning to negotiate with the federal government for MinnesotaCare funding from the 2010 health reform law, but the governor’s office canceled the trip because of scheduling conflicts.
Instead, he and Jesson spoke by phone with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Jesson said they shared MinnesotaCare’s bipartisan history and pushed for answers from the federal government by the end of February.
“We were concerned that there has not been guidance,” she said, speaking of a delay in information about Basic Health Program funding for MinnesotaCare.
“We didn’t resolve anything,” she said. “There wasn’t a deal made.”
The state is seeking BHP funding to continue MinnesotaCare, which is incompatible with the federal health reform law but serves a population that wouldn’t be covered adequately on the state’s health insurance exchange.
The exchange, which is on its way through the Legislature right now, is expected to be a marketplace for roughly 1.3 million Minnesotans to compare and purchase insurance coverage.
Dayton stressed that “putting these working poor families in the exchange would be a step backward,” Jesson said.
She also explained that there are two options for rescuing MinnesotaCare: The feds could make Minnesota a “demonstration state,” which would provide BHP funding without a lot of rules, or the funding could come with federal guidance.
In either case, the Human Services commissioner noted that time is running out. The program is currently funded by state and federal dollars as well as premiums and a provider tax.
It’s unclear how the issue will be resolved. Jesson said Sebelius offered to send a federal team to help work with Minnesota.
“The good news is we have the attention of the highest people in HHS,” Jesson said. “We’re going to keep pushing.”