What’s in the state Health Care budget bills?

I’ve been thinking about health care at the Capitol this year as a three-act play. 

Act I: The Legislature passed a $300 million bill in January to assist Minnesotans buying health insurance on the individual market. (The same law allows health insurance companies like Blue Cross to convert from nonprofit to for-profit companies.)
Act II: The second act ended with the recent passage of the “reinsurance” law, giving away $540 million dollars in public funds to health insurance companies of — with no guarantee that premiums will go down. 
Act III: The final act is in progress, as the Minnesota House debates the HHS budget for the next two years. Different bills passed the House and Senate floors last week.

The long and the short of it?

After giving $540 million away to the health insurance industry, with no strings attached, the GOP proposes to cut that much from our public health care programs. The House has proposed a $599 million cut to current spending adjusted for inflation.

How do they think the state can save that much money?

1. Punishing people enrolled in Medicaid (Medical Assistance) and MinnesotaCare. The House budget bill raises MinnesotaCare premiums to the maximum allowed under federal law — as much as a 70% increase. And — I swear I’m not making this up — their budget creates a new “verification of coverage form.” If people do not fill out this form and return it, they will be kicked-off of Medical Assistance.

2. Eliminating MinnesotaCare by shutting down MNsure. The House proposes to shut down MNsure and move Minnesota to the federal health insurance exchange for the individual market. There’s one big problem: the federal exchange is incompatible with MinnesotaCare, and would doom the program for over 100,000 Minnesotans.

3. Imaginary numbers. The Commissioner of Management and Budget called GOP spending proposals “alternative math”, and the HHS budget is no exception:

  • $135 million by delaying payments for our public programs, bringing back an old gimmick.
  • $150 million by removing inflation from the forecast of future costs for our public programs. They ignore inflation for future budget years.
  • $170 million in savings by auditing enrollees in our public programs for eligibility requirements. There is no evidence that such audits would produce this much of a decrease in spending.

On top of these and other initiatives, the House bill includes a contingent rate cut of $204 million to health care providers that will go into effect next year if the other schemes fall short of achieving their imaginary number savings.

One way or another, this health care budget will mean Minnesotans pay more for health care, and it could lead to people losing access to health care and long term care.

As we reach the end of the third act, your state Representative needs to hear from you. Email your State Representative and tell them to vote NO on ANY cuts to our public health care programs in the Health and Human Services budget bill.

P.S: Need help with what to email your representative? Here’s a sample message:
Dear Representative ______,

I’m writing to ask you to vote against any cuts to our public health care programs — Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare — in the health and human services omnibus budget. Minnesota needs to protect its public health care programs, and put people first. It’s wrong to put the lowest income Minnesotans on the chopping block, when they state has a budget surplus and gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to health insurance companies, no strings attached.

Thank you,
Your name

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