By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday pushed up a Medicaid health care expansion he sought under the federal health care overhaul, saying broader coverage for 95,000 vulnerable adults will start March 1, seven months sooner than previously predicted.

The Democratic governor issued his first veto threat when asked at a news conference whether the Republican-led Legislature could block the change.

“I would veto anything that came forward that would impede this program or rescind it, and unless they have two-thirds in both houses to override this, this program is going to take effect as it should,” Dayton said.

Dayton has made the extended Medicaid coverage a priority, calling it a “no brainer” and “about the easiest decision that I’ve had to make in my first three weeks in office.”

He ordered the expansion within 48 hours of taking office earlier this month, reversing the stance of predecessor Tim Pawlenty, a likely Republican presidential candidate who took steps to block Minnesota’s participation in the federal health care law. An official in Pawlenty’s administration had given Oct. 1 as a realistic date for the Medicaid rollout.

Dayton said timetables changed after he appointed Human Services Commissioner Cindy Jesson and charged her with making the Medicaid expansion a top goal.

The expansion of the federal-state program, called Medical Assistance in Minnesota, is expected to bring $1.3 billion in federal dollars to hospitals, clinics and doctors. It will bring more generous benefits for 83,000 adults now insured by two state-funded programs, MinnesotaCare and General Assistance Medical Care, and provide coverage for 12,000 uninsured.

Minnesota is one of a small group of states that already offered health care coverage for low-income adults. The federal health care law gave those states the option of moving those patients into Medicaid to draw a federal match until 2014, when the federal government is slated to start paying the full cost of covering low-income adults nationwide. Dayton’s administration has said the state will have a small net gain when all costs and savings from expanded Medicaid are considered.

Despite the veto threat, Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman David Hann said he plans to move ahead with a bill that would repeal the state’s authority for the Medicaid expansion. Hann said he is concerned that the additional federal dollars will lock in too much state spending, and questioned whether Dayton’s administration can meet the aggressive deadline for implementation.

“This is not wise for us to do. This is going to make our efforts to manage our budget that much more difficult,” said Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Jesson said she is confident the Department of Human Services can pull off the switch by March 1, even as she acknowledged ongoing negotiations with the federal government over when the federal money will start to flow.

“We don’t want to let that stand in the way of rolling this out,” she said.

Dayton said he has assurances from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Vice President Joe Biden that the money will come through.

Significant administrative work will be required to make the switch behind the scenes. Jesson predicted it will take state and county workers six months to manually enroll 51,000 MinnesotaCare patients in Medicaid. MinnesotaCare caps hospital benefits and comes with more out-of-pocket costs for patients than Medicaid.

General Assistance Medical Care patients can be switched automatically because they’re on the same computer system as Medicaid patients, while uninsured adults with incomes of about $8,000 or less can sign up for Medicaid at county human services offices starting March 1.

Pawlenty and lawmakers enacted a pared-back version of General Assistance Medical Care last year, but all but four major Twin Cities hospitals declined to participate.

Minnesota Hospital Association Chairwoman Mary Klimp, who heads a New Prague hospital, said the Medicaid expansion will help hospitals statewide.

“This is incredibly important to rural Minnesota,” she said.

The Department of Human Services plans to send notices to those affected by the switch and work with advocates to help eligible uninsured adults sign up.

Also Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health announced it will seek a $1 million federal planning grant to start a health insurance exchange where consumers can buy health coverage. A release from the agency said Sebelius is allowing the state to apply for the grant after Pawlenty declined to do so last year, and that the money is expected by March 1.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (15)
  1. Pete says:

    OK…..Where is THIS $ coming from? There is no doubt these people need some assistance…..but I love how we “expand” programs when we are BROKE!

  2. Lance says:

    Way to go Mr Dayton…TY for keeping your word…WOW a Governor that cares….for ALL Minnesotan’s…cool!!!

    1. Chad G says:

      If that’s the case, KEEP YOUR WORD, and get a stadium bill moving along so the Vikings can stay.

  3. Cache says:

    Way to go Dipso…TY for Selling us taxpayers out for your welfare program slugs…That’s it follow your idiot heros Obumbler and Schwatzenegger…put us on the hook for $1.2 Billion….we are only short $6.2 now now we will have to make up $7.4 Billion. How about shaving the freebies for the illegals in this state. Stupid is as stupid does…How stupid can you be????????

    1. Ignorance must be bliss says:

      Obviously not as stupid as you. If you do not like the direction that this country is going we would be more than happy to chip in and buy you a 1 way ticket the hell out of here. So sick of your ilk shouting about stuff that they read in headlines from the fox news team or Sara’s reality show. By the way, you are so fresh with your insults, I mean “Obumbler”, how do you do it? You must have a writer cause that is just too much. So fresh indeed.

      1. Ignorance must be bliss says:

        Just another side note on the new story that came out, UnitedHealth’s 4Q Profit Rises 10 Percent… You are right the new health care is ssssoooo wrong. You must work for the insurance companies cause you seem to like the money going into a CEO’s pocket instead of helping people.

  4. Sandy says:

    Ok Cache Dipso, back your truck out of our driveway. Those of us who work hard to make a living and cannot afford health insurance are not welfare slugs. I am a single Mom who works her fanny off to provide. My child and I would not have health coverage if it werent’ for MNCARE!

    1. Workin Mom says:

      Well said Sandy, and I totally agree with you.
      I am a single mom, I work my tookis off and if it wasn’t for MinnesotaCare, I would be dead. It’s as simple as that.
      I am not a welfare slug.

      People need to get off the schtick about people on assistance all being non-working losers that just sit and watch soap operas all day.

  5. Tom943 says:

    so it will cost the taxpayers of Minnesota $384 million but we will get $1.2 Billion from the federal government. Where does that federal government money come from anyway? Ahhhh, I would guess either from the taxpayers again or maybe they can just print it.

    1. Ignorance must be bliss says:

      Another person that does not understand how this works in the 1st place. Yes it costs money, yes taxpayers fit the bill. What you and your kind do not understand is WE ALREADY PAY FOR HEALTH CARE, JUST DO NOT GET HEALTH CARE . Every time a hospital bills someone that does not pay it they give it to the government as a tax write off, hence they are not paying for that bill and not paying the amount in taxes that they should so this goes to the tax payers. Before you blow what is left of your brain, this is not just illegal’s. This is all the people in poverty that have no care if the hospital ruins the credit as they have none to begin with but need medical attention. Shut your mouth and open your eyes and realize that not all the people in the country are in the same place that you are and some people need a helping hand. Not everyone can “pick themselves up by the boot straps” as you GOPers constantly say. Kind of easy to understand why a lot of other countries hate us when reading the smug, idiotic, self absorbed comments from narrow minded people like this. I got mine so the hell with the rest of you! I hope your luck changes and then when you ask for help the person spits in your face like you seem to enjoy doing to others.

      1. Tom943 says:

        “your kind”, “shut your mouth” typical liberal comments. Yes we all end up paying for those hospital nonpayments and I’m quite sure that when the government gets involved things will be come much more streamline and cost efficient.

  6. Kevin says:

    When your a Dayton…money is no object….spend….spend….spend….its easy to take care of the poor on the backs of the middle class…when your rich….you voted for him…you live the dream…

  7. EMMA B says:

    What most conservatives want is to have poorer people taken care of but have it done in a fiscally responsible way. Also to have accountability – that you would be accountable- for paying a larger sum of money toward your healthcare bill if the reason why you’re having your asthma attack is because you have continued to smoke despite recommendations to not do so. If you want to drink heavily, not exercise and keep your weight down, that should be your business, however since you’ve taken on that burden, you should pay for it. Most feel bad for those that cannot afford healthcare but you see the worst when you work in an ER and people come in for things they could have treated themselves at home for or could have prevented entirely had they read instructions or taken the medication they were prescribed and had but decided they just didn’t want to take. The general public has no idea of the foolish spending in healthcare on people who refuse to take personal responsibility for their health. Diabetics that won’t take care of their diabetes properly because they want to eat whatever they want. People need to be smarter about their health care use and come in when they need it too. I, as a taxpayer, shouldn’t have to pay for your bad habits. But Dayton doesn’t seem to want to understand this message because he wants the votes.

    1. Seriously? says:

      So, because there are those (a few or all?) who don’t take care of themselves as they should, and because of that they require medical insurance provided by tax payers, we should not provided medical insurance at all for “all” who cannot afford medical insurance? If you really do work in ER you must know that there are many more than the few you described above that require attention for things that they could not prevent. How does a person prevent kidney stones? There are many many people who come to ER for things they could not prevent by being more responsible. ER also see their share of children who need attention for things that they or their parents could not have prevented. Often it is because they are children living in an environment alongside many other children that would cause them to seek attention in ER for the flu and many other things. I doubt your reasons you stated above are even valid. Lets stop tax payer provided health care for ALL because of a few who don’t take care of themselves is a week and mean argument to save a buck.

  8. tj says:

    have you been to the ER in the last five years? It’s full of stuffy kids that have a cold! I waited 4 hours for my son (who had a burst appendix) to get seen while these people filled the room. There was an easy 27:1 ratio of people with minor problems vs. “actual” emergencies. I don’t know about anyone else, but my health insurance took a huge jump this year and a reduction in coverage. I am now paying health insurance for my kids and someone else. Unemployment is down in MN… FIND A JOB and be part of the solution, not the problem. Aparently our new governor must have missed school on the same day Obama did when the teacher explained: “Money does NOT grow on trees”! keep empowering people with a handout… they will gladly take it!

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