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GAMC gets bipartisan approval

Published (2/18/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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A plan to create a temporary, scaled-back version of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The House passed an amended version of HF2680/ SF2168* in a 125-9 vote Feb. 18. Passed by the Senate on Feb. 11, it quickly repassed the bill 47-16 when it was returned from the House.

Sponsored by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls), the bill would create a 16-month GAMC program providing continued coverage of basic medical services to eligible low-income Minnesotans. The program would be funded by reduced reimbursement to health care providers, cuts to county social services grants and the draw-down of federal dollars. A controversial surcharge on hospitals and HMOs was eliminated in committee.

The legislation also proposes reforms in mental health care delivery and allows counties to serve GAMC enrollees through a coordinated care delivery option. The temporary program would begin March 1, 2010, a month before the current program is expected to run out of funding.

On the House floor, lawmakers debated whether reform measures proposed by Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) and Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) should be included in the bill. One provision would create health savings accounts for up to 1,000 enrollees in MinnesotaCare, the state health program designed for working families. The state would make capped contributions to the accounts, which enrollees would draw from to pay for private services.

“We believe that these reform pieces are necessary,” Dean said. “We believe GAMC cannot continue into the next biennium. We need to reform that.”

Dean successfully amended the bill to include establishment of a county-based group home program for childless adults. The second part of his amendment, which included the health savings accounts, failed.

Several legislators said they supported GAMC reform efforts, but believed the proposals needed further discussion in committee.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed transitioning GAMC participants into MinnesotaCare. Critics of the governor’s proposal say GAMC enrollees, many of whom have a chronic mental illness, would not be able to pay the premiums and follow the re-enrollment procedures required under MinnesotaCare.

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