Reporting Edgar Linares
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota has accepted a federal offer to put more low-income people on a state-fashioned Medicaid program with the costs falling to the federal government.
“This is a big step forward for Minnesota,” said Gov. Mark Dayton.
On Tuesday, Dayton signed a bill authorizing the expansion that affects more than 35,000 people. For instance, childless adults making less than $15,000 a year will be eligible for the government-sponsored Medical Assistance coverage.
Thousands more people who are on the premium-based MinnesotaCare plan will be shifted to the Medical Assistance program.
“This is going to reduce the cost of health care coverage for the rest of us who are on private insurance,” said Dayton. “People in this situation become ill, they don’t have medical coverage. They wait until they’re really sick then they go to the hospital emergency room and those costs are higher.”
Dayton says expanding eligibility will save the state a projected amount of $129 million in the 2014-15 biennium.
The Democratic-led Legislature approved the expansion last week. It’s connected to the new federal health insurance law, which has caused Republican leaders in other states to balk, including Wisconsin.
Many Republicans in the Legislature opposed the bill, saying the federal government will likely run out of money to fund the coverage.
For those working on the front lines of health care coverage for low income Minnesotans the bill is great news.
“We think it’s good news for our community. We think it’s good news for our state,” said Lezlie Taylor, VP of Communication and Diversity for Greater Twin Cities United Way.
GTCUW provides funding for programs that have helped more than 60,000 low-income individuals with health care access in the Twin Cities Metro.
“It broadens the safety net for the community, in terms of the services that are needed,” said Taylor. “From a health care perspective this allows those folks more opportunity to have coverage.”
The federal government has committed to paying all extra costs for the first few years. By 2020, the state will have to pay 10 percent.
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