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Minnesota Legislature

Short-term coverage for unemployed

Published (1/16/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Increasing unemployment numbers are translating to more people losing their health care coverage.

Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF42 that would provide immediate short-term health insurance coverage for some qualified unemployed people.

“My goal here is to have a real discussion and come up with a solution to give Minnesota families relief in an easy and unbureaucratic way,” he told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee, which he chairs, on Jan. 13.

The bill would provide qualifying individuals receiving unemployment benefits, and their family members, up to six months of MinnesotaCare coverage, while exempting them from premiums and eligibility requirements. There is no Senate companion.

Those who become unemployed in many cases are eligible for COBRA health insurance, but Thissen said that the cost sometimes eats about 70 percent of the person’s unemployment benefit, making the insurance unaffordable.

Because Thissen recognized the bill as a “work in progress” needing further discussion, the committee laid the bill over.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) praised the idea behind the bill, but is hopeful that a private health care option, such as a voucher or subsidy, can be found rather than moving people onto a government program.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) noted the unpredictability of the length of time a person may be unemployed “It would be nice to preserve private options for them rather than put them into another government program that ends up cost-shifting the costs to the private sector.”

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