For more information contact: House GOP Communications 651-296-5522
Late last Friday, a bipartisan group of legislators and the Governor announced a compromise had been reached on the future of health care for very poor Minnesotans who were served by the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program. I have heard from many Eden Prairie citizens about this matter and would like to provide some information on the issue and the solution that was crafted.
GAMC is a program that pays for the health care costs of low-income, single adults between the ages of 18 and 64. The majority of GAMC patients suffer from chemical dependency, mental illness, or both. Many are homeless. Unique to Minnesota, GAMC is funded solely through the State general fund, with no federal funding component. The costs of the program have grown rapidly, increasing 30 percent from one budget biennium to the next. Without changes to GAMC, its estimated costs would be nearly $1 billion by the 2012-2013 budget. The Governor unallotted the program last May with a program end date of April 1, 2010. Since that time, legislators have been developing possible solutions to continue health care coverage for this vulnerable population, but at a sustainable cost to the taxpayers.
Significant debate has been occurring over how best to achieve two important goals: First, to continue to provide a safety net to the State’s poorest and sickest, and second, to balance the State’s budget. With a current deficit of about a billion dollars, cost containment is a fact of life for all government programs. Trimming about the edges of current program structures will not provide the savings or the innovation needed under the economic realities of our short and long-term budget outlook. We need to create new ways of serving our citizens. I believe the compromise reached on GAMC represents just such innovation.
Under the broad outlines of the new plan, the current GAMC program will continue to operate until June 1st, providing time for hospitals to set up “coordinated care organizations” (CCOs) to care for GAMC patients. On June 1st, 17 hospitals will operate these CCO’s, in conjunction with county programs. They will receive per patient funding for their care, rather than the traditional “fee for service” reimbursement. Emphasis will be on connecting various providers to efficiently treat patients and help keep them healthy so they don’t end up frequent visitors to the emergency room. A special fund for the CCOs will be established to pay for this care. A new prescription drug program will also be set up to ensure that patients receive the medications that treat and stabilize chronic medical conditions, avoiding additional hospitalizations. An uncompensated care pool will be established to reimburse those hospitals not yet ready to begin a CCO by June 1st, but are treating GAMC patients.
Caring for the poorest and sickest is a priority we all share. By shifting our attention from maintaining the structure of a program instituted in 1975 to the modern day delivery of service to these patients, we are honoring our moral responsibility to help those in need, and our constitutional mandate to balance the State’s budget.
District 42B, Eden Prairie
Representative Loon appreciates hearing from her constituents on all topics before the Legislature. You may contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling her at at (651) 296-7449.
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