Health and Human Services
Plans include increasing Medical Assistance payments to dentists and nursing homes, which haven’t seen increases in more than a decade.
Implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act while pushing forward on its Reform 2020 initiatives are two key initiatives of the Department of Human Services’ proposed 2014-2015 biennial budget.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, everyone must have health insurance, according to the Affordable Care Act. Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson told the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Thursday that the department’s proposed budget is revenue neutral in this area. An estimated 145,000 currently uninsured people, for reasons varying from ineligibility to simply not applying, would receive Medical Assistance coverage, Minnesota’s Medicaid program.
Aside from complying with the Affordable Care Act, the department proposes investing $213 million in additional MA reforms. In 2011, the Legislature directed the department to reform MA in order to achieve better outcomes for people with disabilities, seniors and other enrollees. Some of the Reform 2020 initiatives include:
• redesigning home-based community services;
• expanding the Parent Aware for School Readiness program statewide;
• assisting teen mothers breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty;
• finding permanent homes for foster children ages 6 and older; and
• intervening earlier in behavioral health issues to avoid hospital visits.
Plans also include increasing MA payments to dentists and nursing homes, which haven’t seen increases in more than a decade.
“Nursing homes are finally included in the governor’s budget for the first time,” Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Faribault) said. “We’ve been cut and froze for 20 years.”
Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), an advocate for children with autism, was pleased to see that $12 million is added to the governor’s biennial budget proposal for early intervention treatment for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. About 440 children would be eligible in fiscal year 2014 and 880 children in fiscal year 2015 for services.
“Children with autism are waiting for our help, so I really appreciate you acknowledging that in advance,” Norton said.
Still unknown is what will happen to those enrolled in MinnesotaCare, a publicly subsidized program for residents who do not have access to affordable health care coverage. The program currently operates under a federal waiver, which is being discontinued. State and federal representatives continue to discuss whether the program can continue under a demonstration waiver or if enrollees would shift to a basic health care plan under the new health care exchange.
Budget preparation relies on forecasting revenues, expenditures and program eligibility.
“The more changes that we have the more volatile those predictions become,” Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) said. “One of the things that we are very concerned about is accuracy of the eligibility predictions from the department in forecasting.”
- Sue Hegarty
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