December 10 is International Human Rights Day and, in observance of that day, the Minnesota AFL-CIO is sponsoring a forum on health as a human right. Then, at 12:30, three DFL legislators will present their plan to save GAMC – General Assistance Medical Care, which serves as a safety net for the poorest, most marginalized people in our community. MinnPost reports that about 36,000 poor adults are currently enrolled in GAMC. Governor Tim Pawlenty cut all funding for GAMC as part of his unallotment strategy for solving the state budget deficit in the current biennium. Minnpost quotes State Senator Linda Berglin, explaining the plan:
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 roles 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.
Hennepin County Medical Center will be the biggest loser under Governor Tim Pawlenty’s GAMC cuts, losing more than $90 million over the next two years. According to a recent MPR report:
HCMC is a “safety net” hospital, meaning it can’t refuse emergency medical treatment to people who can’t pay for it.
That won’t change. But because so many of their patients don’t have insurance, HCMC relies heavily on programs like general assistance for reimbursement.
The hospital is more than a last resort for the poor. It boasts the state’s largest level one trauma center, and features a top-rated burn unit and poison control center.
Pawlenty says that GAMC recipients can change over to MinnesotaCare, but health care providers say that is not a workable solution and would not replace all of the funds they will lose from the GAMC cuts.