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Protects Most Vulnerable at a Lower Cost to Taxpayers
ST. PAUL, MN – The Minnesota House overwhelmingly approved legislation today to restore health care to Minnesota’s poor and sick at a lower cost to Minnesota taxpayers on vote of 125 -9. The legislative solution would restore General Assistance Medical Care for 16 months, providing basic health care to 85,000 Minnesotans. State Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL – St. Paul, said the solution represents two inherent Minnesota values – compassion and common sense.
“The state of Minnesota is short on budgetary resources, but Minnesotans are rich with conscience. What we have accomplished today reflects both realities," said Murphy, who authored the legislation. “Our legislative solution to care for our poor and sick protects jobs, taxpayers, businesses and does so at a significantly reduced cost to Minnesota taxpayers.”
The legislative GAMC solution is significantly less expensive and more cost-effective than the Governor’s current proposal to auto-enroll GAMC patients into MinnesotaCare. The Governor’s plan would provide care to 21,000 Minnesotans per month at cost of $937 per enrollee for six months. The legislative solution would provide care to 38,000 per month at a cost of $457 per enrollee for sixteen months.
“If I was asked why we need to pass this bill, I would say this: on April 1st, GAMC will end under the Governor’s plan,” said Huntley. “On that day, if someone is admitted to the hospital with acute illness or injury, he will be treated – but the hospital will not be reimbursed. This uncompensated care will be passed on to all of us through higher premiums, higher medical costs, and higher property taxes.
Minnesotans who receive General Assistance Medical care all earn less than $8,000 per year. 80% have mental health issues and 60% have chronic medical conditions. 8,000 veterans are served by GAMC, including several veterans who watched the debate from the House gallery. State Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL – Minneapolis) said this solution maintains our commitment to the most vulnerable.
“Reform is not just about saving money, it is also about how we care for people,” said Thissen. “We need to continue our efforts to find long-term solutions to move people from lives of crisis to stability. That means a focus on affordable housing, access to mental health medications and skills for a good job. Keeping people healthy and saving money is as much about what happens outside the hospital as within it.”
To achieve cost-savings, the legislative solution employs innovative reforms and cost-cutting measures, including a new mental health urgent care program that lowers cost. Eligibility is tightened and hospital-only coverage is eliminated for individuals with income above 75% of poverty. Hospital provider rates will be cut, making the temporary program less expensive to run. Hospitals, providers, and other care organizations support the legislation solution.
“We worked directly with the people who provide care because they know better than us what happens when a vulnerable Minnesotan walks through the emergency room door,” said Murphy. “The reason Rochester Mayo and most Minnesota hospitals support our solution is that it is a better financial and medical option for their hospitals and the patients they serve.”
General Assistance Medical Care will expire on April 1, 2010 if a GAMC restoration bill is not passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Given the state’s budget challenges and the broad bipartisan support of the bill, Murphy hoped the Governor would sign the bill into law since a veto would cost the state more money than his signature.
“When a Minnesotans walks into an emergency room we take care of them. Minnesotans wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Murphy. “Our solution will provide that care at a reasonable and cost-effective price to Minnesota taxpayers. I am hopeful that after months of hard work, compromise, and collaboration we can get this fiscally and morally responsible bill to the Governor’s desk and get his signature.”
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