Republicans in the Minnesota House voted last week to kill MinnesotaCare, the subsidized health insurance program for low-income Minnesotans. That’s one part of their billion dollars in cuts to Minnesota’s health and human services budget. Apparently, under Republican logic, these cuts are necessary because of the state’s two billion dollar budget surplus.
UPDATE 5/6/2015: Senator Tony Lourey (DFL) says that MinnesotaCare is “not up for debate.” How will that affect the conference committee negotiations? We’ll have to wait and see.
MinnesotaCare began before the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid covers extremely low-income people and MinnesotaCare serves many of the working poor. (For poignant stories of MinnesotaCare’s impact see the article that Karen Hollish wrote back in 2011.) Family incomes of people on MinnesotaCare fall between 133 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line. They pay health care premiums on a sliding scale, according to their income level. The premiums cover only part of the cost of health care. The bigger part is covered by the Minnesota Health Care Access Fund and federal Medicaid.
MinnesotaCare is the middle ground, in between publicly funded Medicaid for very low-income families and private insurance through employers or MNSure. When Hollish lost her private insurance back in 2011, she wrote, “The state-run program has kept me from going bankrupt, blind or comatose during a time when full-time work in my field has been difficult hard to find.”
The Minnesota Hospital Association warns that ending MinnesotaCare, and the total of more than a billion dollars in Republican cuts to Minnesota’s health and human services budget
“… takes away money that currently supports our strong community hospitals, working families, young children, disabled citizens and people living with or experiencing mental illness.
“An estimated 100,000 people will lose their health care coverage through MinnesotaCare and be forced to make expensive ER visits, further adding to the financial burden for local hospitals and increasing insurance costs for everyone. These are working families struggling to make ends meet.”
On the contrary, Republicans insist, ending MinnesotaCare will make people better off. Ending MinnesotaCare will give low-income people a choice of private health insurance plans. It doesn’t matter that available plans cost more and provide less coverage. Choice is more important than coverage.
Minnesota Republicans have been trying for years to abolish MinnesotaCare. This year, they got their way in the House. Now the budget battle moves to the Senate. With only a couple of weeks left in the session, MinnesotaCare, and all of health and human services, are on the line.
If you want to keep MinnesotaCare, tell your senator and representative now — before it’s too late.