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Health insurance for every child

Published (1/30/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Having every child in Minnesota covered by health insurance would be the ideal outcome of a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls).

But the idea had some members of the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee Jan. 28 questioning who would ultimately pay the costs.

Nonetheless, HF174 was approved and sent to the House Finance Committee.

The bill would establish the Minnesota Health Security Act and would provide dental, vision and medical insurance for people under age 21, regardless of income or immigration status, including the unborn child of a pregnant woman.

Thissen said that for the past several years lawmakers have considered bills that would ensure that every Minnesota child could see a doctor. With 80,000 state children without health insurance, he said, “We still have a lot of work to do on insuring kids and ultimately making sure that all Minnesotans have access to affordable health care.” Despite the budget problems, he contends the state has “a larger moral and political obligation to consider all the options.”

The program would mirror services offered through Medical Assistance, and would have no enrollee premiums or cost-sharing. The bill would also ensure that all Minnesota adults would have access to comprehensive, affordable health care coverage by Jan. 1, 2012.

While there seemed to be agreement on the ideal, it was the practicalities that several members questioned, such as the cost to the state. This led Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) to say that a responsible policy discussion has to include the consequences.

Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) said the ethical discussion of health care coverage needs to continue; but she is concerned that the state budget may already not be able to sustain programs enacted last session that have specific goals and dates attached.

Its companion, SF9, sponsored by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), awaits action by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee.

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