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Moving to private insurance

Published (1/21/2011)
By Patty Ostberg
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Dr. Peter Dehnel, representing the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance, testifies before the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee Jan. 19 in support of a bill that would establish the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program.  Rep. Steve Gottwalt, sponsor of HF8, listens to the testimony. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)The Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program would move certain MinnesotaCare enrollees to private health care insurance, under a bill approved by the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee Jan. 19.

Sponsored by Chairman Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), HF8 would give a state subsidy to low-income adults without children, and if approved by a federal waiver, low-income adults with children, to purchase their own health care insurance. Those with family gross incomes between 133 percent and 275 percent of the federal poverty guidelines would meet the requirement for the subsidy.

A person would pay a monthly contribution based on age and income. For example, a person under age 21 would pay $122.79, and those 60 years and older would pay $357.19 monthly, although a sliding fee scale would be established by the health and human services commissioner.

“What we’re really trying to do is help Minnesotans afford coverage that they otherwise can’t afford,” Gottwalt said.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee. Its companion, SF32, sponsored by Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Dr. Peter Dehnel, a primary care pediatrician representing the Minnesota Physician-Patient Alliance, said the bill would help put the decision-making into the patient’s hands, rather than being denied care because a clinic won’t accept low reimbursements from state health care programs.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the bill doesn’t go far enough in requiring mental health services to be included in an insurance package. “When private insurance doesn’t cover mental health care, then it falls back on our public funding … or more likely our criminal justice system,” she said, noting that about 70 percent of young people in the juvenile justice system have one or more mental health diagnosis.

Rep. Diane Loeffler (DFL-Mpls) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have required a quality assurance and outcomes measurement system to determine the state’s financial return on the change to a private market.

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