ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota has long been known as a compassionate state that takes care of its vulnerable — the Midwestern version of Sweden.

But an innovative health care program that received widespread acclaim for providing insurance to the working poor is now at risk as lawmakers grapple with a massive deficit. Republicans who took over the Legislature this year instead want to hand out subsidies to the working poor to buy private insurance.

Minnesota was among a handful of states — including Washington and Oregon — that went beyond Medicaid and Medicare programs to cover the uninsured in the past couple of decades, epitomizing a tradition of providing government help for lower-income people. Those programs are shrinking or disappearing altogether as huge deficits eat into state budgets.

Pennsylvania terminated the adultBasic state-funded program for more than 40,000 low-income adults earlier this year. Tennessee halted enrollment in its program for working uninsured adults 16 months ago to cope with budget pressure. Washington’s Basic Health Plan has a waiting list that tops 140,000 after enrollment was frozen two years ago.

“For the past 20 to 30 years, we’ve seen growth in the government sector of health care and I’m not persuaded — I think a lot of people are not persuaded — that that’s been very effective. Now we’re getting to the point where we’re also seeing that it’s not very financially doable,” said state Sen. David Hann, a suburban Republican leading the charge to end his state’s program, called MinnesotaCare.

Republicans are pushing to replace MinnesotaCare for adults with the proposed subsidy program, Healthy Minnesota, starting in January. They are also want to seek federal permission to switch children to the subsidy plan. Critics say that could leave people with unworkable options, such as buying a high-deductible policy without the income to cover the deductible.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has raised financial objections to the plan, which is expected to be part of end-of-session budget talks over the coming week.

New coverage options may be coming for adults within three years, if the federal health care overhaul survives legal and political challenges that long. The law will expand Medicaid coverage for the poor, while offering subsidies to help the working poor purchase coverage through state health exchanges. Not enough detail about that option has emerged to say whether MinnesotaCare patients would do better or worse.

The New York Times called Minnesota’s program, passed in 1992, “the most sweeping effort yet to provide health insurance to people who lack it.”

Former GOP Gov. Arne Carlson, who signed the MinnesotaCare bill into law after intense negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, said Republicans back then were focused on controlling costs such as unpaid hospital bills and providing incentives for single mothers to get off welfare. In a bipartisan spirit that seems foreign today, he said both sides gave ground to come up with a program that was swamped when it opened and helped Minnesota chart the nation’s lowest rate of uninsured residents for years.

It’s a position that Massachusetts now holds after a sweeping overhaul of its health care system including requiring residents to have health insurance.

One of the Minnesota plan’s Democratic architects, state Sen. Linda Berglin, remembered fielding questions from lawmakers in other states about the funding, which included a tax on the state’s medical providers, a higher cigarette tax and premiums from those who signed up.

“One of the strong selling points for Republicans was that people were going to pay what they could afford, and that was a lot better than just not having coverage and getting really sick and not paying anything,” said Berglin, who has become the program’s biggest legislative defender.

Those who rely on MinnesotaCare today include Theresa Arnold, a single mother in a Minneapolis suburb. Arnold never thought she would have to turn to government health care until she found herself uninsured after losing a real estate management job in 2009. After several tries and denials because her income from a severance payment and unemployment was too high, she and her teenage daughter got into MinnesotaCare.

“I think it’s good as a stopgap, as a safety net, as some sort of protection, but I don’t think it should be long-term,” Arnold said. “If and when I secure employment and my company offers health care, I will take it. Because I want to make room for the next person who needs to get over the hump .”

In Minnesota, even Democrats who support MinnesotaCare aren’t clear on its future.

The federal health care overhaul could overtake the program and others like it in 2014. The law will expand Medicaid nationwide to childless adults and families making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The working uninsured — those with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level — will get subsidies to buy insurance through online state health insurance marketplaces.

States also have the option of tapping federal dollars to start basic health programs for a limited slice of low-income people and legal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the fate of programs such as Washington’s Basic Health Plan — one of the first state-funded programs — is up for debate as lawmakers struggle to cut billions from state budgets. Washington state faces a $5 billion shortfall in its next two-year budget.

Basic Health covers 55,000 poor adults and families.

Times have changed since 2003, when enrollment peaked at more than 134,000 people. This year, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire recommended eliminating the program altogether, but lawmakers instead are looking at cuts in enrollment and spending. The state has dropped more than 50,000 people from the program since 2009.

Said Berglin, the Minnesota state senator: “Even in this economy there are still a lot of people that really believe that everyone should have affordable coverage.”

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

Comments (67)
  1. nadia says:

    Wow, why are people here so afraid of any program that helps make sure that the sick are taken care of? Its like the republicans actually WANT low income people do die without any healthcare at all… No heart…

    1. anna says:

      Wow, you really don’t know that the check book has to be balanced? If we spend money in Libya, there is less left for us.

      1. D. Nielsan says:

        Mail more money to the state then and get all your friends to send more money too.

        1. jimmy says:

          Make the top 5% pay their fair share. No smoke or mirrors just the same percent of total income as everyone else

    2. Joe says:

      It is not the government’s function to be in the business of doing charity work. Please get this straight and stop telling me WHO I should give to with MY charity money!

      1. GOPSUX says:

        One of George Washington’s first acts as President was establishing alms houses for the poor. Look it up, republican filth.

      2. The Crux of the Biscuit says:

        Funny, the preamble to the constitution clearly state ‘promote the common welfare’. What do you suppose that means?

        1. @ The crux says:

          The answer here is that when the preamble was written the word “welfare” did not mean to take care of all the dead beats. It was your sneaky democrats that named their program “welfare” and forever changed it’s meaning. They figured out that it was easier to change the meanings of words than to change the constitution.

          1. old nurse says:

            Mn care is not for dead beats, it is for working poor., hence the common welfare of the people.

          2. eastside_evil says:

            What deadbeats?

            I don’t think you read the story. Go back and read it again and see if you can get your comment erased to avoid your obvious embarrassment at missing the whole point of the story.

  2. Nancy Aleshire says:

    This is why it must be mandatory that all employers have health insurance for all its employees. I am currently on Minnesota Care. I work for a company that does not provide health care for any of its employees and I make too much money to get Medical Assistance. Why should working people such as myself go without medical insurance. These Republicans all have health insurance–they have no idea what it is like to be poor and without.

    1. Joe says:

      YOU shold concentrate on working to purchase YOUR OWN insurance and STOP relying on others to provide for YOU. That is SELFISH and INCONSIDERATE.

      1. HEIDZ says:


        1. gtV says:

          Right On! Thanks for saying how I really feel!

          1. @ HEIDZ says:


            1. I am not a deadbeat says:

              I do not get help from the state for anything and I pay my taxes. Although I make under 40,000 a year I am all for using my portion of taxes to help the less fortunate. I think most in Minnesota would and most in this country would as well. Yet some GOP supporters are making it sound like they are supporting deadbeats. I really hate the nasty filth coming out of their mouths. Where do these people come from and why are they so stingy and nasty?

        2. Southern MN Mom says:

          Dear Heidz-

          Sorry you have had such a tough time in your life, but our system is called capitalism, not socialism or marxism. Your all caps, incoherent rant really has me thinking you should take medication, get some counseling or both! 3 full years of continuous unemployment benefits and 60 straight months of public assistance sounds compassionate enough to me-

          1. old nurse says:

            @ Southern Your reply shows all the heart of as stone. Where does the three years of unemployment and 5 years of welfare benefits come from? Telling someone to take medication. Do you have prescribing powers? And you complain that she is incoherent? Our system has never been a pure capitalism from the moment the government put tariff on goods. Shame on you for being a teacher and not knowing that.

      2. brett says:

        lay off joe not everyone can afford health insurance like yoiu and the only one that’s being selfish and inconsiderate is you

      3. Lindi says:

        Do you purchase your own insurance Joe? If you are over 30 with 1 or 2 health concerns your premiums could easily be over $1000 per month and your health concerns would be considered prexisting and not be covered. In the real world health insurance is not quite as black and white as you would like it to be. Somehow you don’t seem like the type to actually give money to charity…

  3. Mary Jean Mulherin says:

    Too bad we don’t live in Vermontt where everyone is to be covered with health care because there the legislators do care about people. Too bad the legislators here who proclaim to be pro-life do not have a consistent life ethic. Contact your legislator and ask them to support the Minnesota Health Plan which would cover people from womb to death by eliminating the health insurance industry and their record profits.

    1. Eileen says:

      Thats also the only state in the union with a socialist senator. Move to Europe where it doesn’t work either.

  4. gtV says:

    THINK about it! Would cutting MNCare help solve the budget problems? Cut, caring for the sick and injured when they don’t have the means to do so and this state will be in worse shape than it is now! It doesn’t take high school ECON 101 to figure this out.

    Doesn’t anyone in the Legislature have the chutzpah to reform the MN Tax System and cutting all state non-essential spending across the board on everything by 10%??? Think about it! That would be too easy!

  5. Wm. Sweeney says:

    The budget does need to be brought into line — but there are two sides to the budget, revenue and expense. To take all revenue increasing sources (read increases in fees or taxes) is not realistic. What is being proposed is the elimination of services to the neediest and most disadvantaged of our state so the most advantaged do not pay more.
    Over the past three decades, the most fortunate in our society have gained an increasing share of income and wealth while the least advantaged have fallen back. To say that the wealthiest cannot provide additional support for government services makes no sense to this writer. Destroy incentive or cause these most productive to leave Minnesota?? Utter bs.

    1. Joe says:

      Your point about the most fortunate gaining and the least fortunate falling back is very debatable. The rise of the middle class in America has happened only with the inspiration, hard work, and success of achievers in our society. Unfortunately, you don’t understand that these achievers have created wealth because they work hard and make things that are valuable. You have a distorted image of the “wealthy” and think they are just a bunch of greedy, lazy, “fortunate” rich people. While that may be true for some, the vast majority of achievers do not fit into this category, and give to charity on top of the mandated taxes which to to welfare. So please, spare us the simpleton class warfare and help us get back to what made America great. What you are advocating is Socialism, and it is NOT what made America great. In fact, these types of welfare programs are responsible for worstening living conditions in the lower class because it makes people dependent and content to live with a constant stream of government handouts.

      Next time you want to talk about compassion, look yourself in the mirror and realize that YOU have the power to help others in need. But it is not your place to force others to give their “charity” money to one particular cause or another. In order for America to remain a free country and an example for the rest of the world, ALL people must be free to give to charity and should not be forced to contribute to welfare programs.

      1. Citizen says:

        Actually, Joe, the rise of the middle class was a direct result of tax policy by the U.S. Government. The progressive taxes that were part of the Eisenhower administration after WWII, created that large middle class which has been eaten away at by the tax policies of successive administrations–both Democrat and Republican who have listened to the wealthy who don’t want to be taxed on their ability to pay. Thus, someone make $200,000 a year is taxed at the same level as someone making $2,000,000. Plus, the uber wealthy do not get most of their income from easily taxable sources or they get it from very low-taxed to non-taxed sources. It is basically the middle class wage slaves who support everyone!

      2. eastside_evil says:

        *WHAT* rise in the middle class? I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.

  6. tired of blaming the poor says:

    You really need to get educated, there is a cap on public assistance of 60 months, or to make it easier for your hate incensed brain, 5 years. Everyone getting medical assistance has to provide absent parent information of children getting benefits, no one can get benefits for a child conceived after application date for ANY benefits, only existing children at time of application, there are income limits and employment agencies that are mandatory for households not working. Try directing your hate towards changing all the perks and benefits our elected “leaders” get, why don’t you cry and whine about their health insurance rip offs from the public? NO one in public office should get free health care! Let them pay the premiums and copays and deductibles we do and things will change very quickly!

    1. ahwelfare says:

      Gee only 5 years, there is no 5 year cap on receiving section 8 housing and food stamps and so on, you ever considered stop having fatherless babies. I know its such a challenge not to get pregnant, its not a cold, its take an amazing amount of irresponsibility.

      1. Gordon says:

        federal programs vs states.

      2. eastside_evil says:

        Uh oh. Someone is commenting but doesn’t know what the topic is.

        How embarrassing!

  7. David Gasner says:

    The death squad was voted into office. Do not worry the rich inportant people will be taken care of at the same time they ship jobs to China or out of state.

    1. eastside_evil says:

      Which “death squad” do you refer to, specifically?

  8. Debbie Nielsan says:

    If we could afford to continue to cover everyone that would be fine, BUT, we cannot. You can only raise taxes so high before businesses and individuals decide to leave the state and take their dollars elsewhere. I personally know several individuals who are on MNcare who do NOT need it – they own homes and cars and riding lawnmowers for their big yards. One gentleman – if I can call him that – works only for cash so he can avoid claiming the income and not qualify for all the MN handouts and freebies. These programs need to be better policed or the people who really need it will no longer be able to get it.

  9. AshamedOfTheLegislators says:

    I totally agree. The GOP are totally without compassion. They must belong to the subset of Americans who have enough income to survive and health insurance for their families. Boy it must be nice not to see or know the people at the bottom. Do they really believe that people making $15,000 can simply cut back on a few things and buy insurance with high deductibles? How ignorant can they be?

    1. Sick of sick of says:

      Dear Ashamed-

      Welcome back! I see you are still spouting the same Liberal/Socialist/Marxist nonsense, but what the heck-WELCOME BACK!!

      1. Harvey says:

        @ sicko And you are still spouting yourself, being negative and adding diidley to a conversation.

        1. Sick of sick of says:


          Never heard of you, except for a big bunny a long, long time ago!

          Keep posting pal, so I can see what you got!!


  10. Mike says:

    Who cares about the poor, all we really want is a stadium, ask Rybak and Dayton!

  11. lee says:

    Trust in God……you will be ok

  12. GOPSUX says:

    Joe is republican filth.

    1. @ GOPSUX says:

      You are a low life bottomfeeder.

  13. Dave says:

    I believe the day will come when 40 or even 50% of my pay will go for taxes. Let’s see, that would leave me with $15,000. We make it to easy to just sit back and get free everything in this state and in the country for that matter. If you lost your job then for sure you deserve some help till you get back on your feet. My gripe is with all the lazy people that just sit back and collect free everything and I am expected to pay for it. IMO we need slow the birthrate a little and get a handle on imigration. Think about it; how many people do you know that have been laid off because of downsizing? I’m no expert but if in the future manufactures will probably be more automated needing less workers. The baby boomers are staying at their jobs longer cause of money woes so fewer jobs will be available. High school grads and seniors are competeing for the same jobs and then we have millions of immigrants in the mix. I know immigrants take some of the crappy jobs but if the U.S. tanks then i’m sure theres alot of people here that would do those jobs to feed their familys. Sorry but my family first before an immigrants.
    Point is, more and more people are looking for fewer and fewer available jobs. Nobody seems to see that.

  14. Dave says:

    THANK YOU JOE!!! U have my vote.

  15. Peter says:

    To many people make the wrong decisions in life and expect others to pick up the tab. Having children you can’t afford, getting into debt through gambling, drugs, or credit cards, going on government assistance when you could get a job, quiting school, etc. We as a society should and will continue to take care of those that are truely in need but I think its time people take responsibility for bad life decisions and quit burdening everyone else with them.

    1. eastside_evil says:

      “To many people make the wrong decisions in life and expect others to pick up the tab.”

      Peter, what should be done with those people? Please be specific.

  16. Watchit says:

    You libs are really that stupid ? Tax the red bones and their casinos and we can fund everything…

  17. James says:

    Joe you inconsiderade jerk this is designed for those who can’t always make it on their own! maybe one day you’ll end up without a job and have kids to take care of. maybe one ay you’ll get sick and will lose your house when you can’t afford the bill, or one day you’ll wake up and catch that not everyone has their A game going like you and some need help. I wish you the wrst life possible, only so you can see the real compassion of others when you’re down on your luck!

  18. Indiansblow says:

    I am with the other guy expand some slots .

  19. The Crux of the Biscuit says:

    If this country can afford to spend TRILLIONS killing people in the middle east, we can afford to provide health care for all of our citizens.

    1. Harry says:

      who says we can afford either, we are in debt trillions.

  20. bobo says:

    Does anyone ever stop and ask why health care is so darn expensive? Does anyone stop and ask why we need health insurance in the first place? The Democratic party is a wholy owned subsidiary of the Trial Lawyers Association. When the TLA tells Obama to sit he does not look for a chair. Because of them the price of malpractice ins has hit the moon. Furthermore, the fear of being sued has caused nearly every doctor to over prescribe tests, exams etc etc. What our country desperately needs is tort reform. That will make it easier for states like MN to afford Mn Care.

  21. truth says:

    Heres the deal if you work but need assistance still with healthcare then you’re prolly in trouble, but if you lay around and have baby after baby the state will still provide healthcare, food stamps and section8. What a great place minnesota is if your a waste of human life, darn apemakers

    1. guy says:

      sure wish I was a woman and could get pregnant

  22. Not the greatest says:

    Minnesota Care only covers $10,000 per year. That is less that one day in the hospital.

  23. Dave says:

    Just curious, do people realize that 2% of money spent at your local health care provider, whether it be your dentist, chiropractor, or medical clinic goes directly back to the state to supposedly fund MnCare? 2% doesn’t sound like much, but it’s being passed on to the rest of us when we go in for treatment, so you’d think it would be pretty well funded.

  24. Citizen says:

    If the GOP can’t balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the poor, the ill and needy, whose backs can they balance it on? Certainly, not the wealthy it seems. And certainly not on those who “got theirs” and everyone else can just take care of themselves. I’m sure those people would kick a starving animal, too. Yes, it is easier to teach accounting to a Democrat than compassion to a Republican.

    1. Southern MN Mom says:


      My grandfather told me something I never, ever forgot- He was fond of saying, “If you have a heart you vote Democrat, but if you have a brain you vote Republican.” His saying is as true today as it was in the 1960’s.

      Must society have a safety net? Absolutely! Must this net be big enough to hold everyone for year after year? Absolutely Not!!

      1. Citizen says:

        @Southern MN Mom. No safety net? What is your proposal to deal with the people who fall through society’s cracks year after year, because not everyone is as capable and intelligent as you are. Not that I really care about your opinion; I’m just curious as to whether you have a solution. But, you probably just want to turn people out onto the street without anything.

        1. Southern MN Mom says:


          Thanks for the compliments, but my success has more to do with working hard than anything else. As I told you earlier we MUST have a safety net under our society. Again, I want you to know, I am not against helping people, but only for those permanently disabled, must it be forever. In the end, we live in a capitalist society and people who are capable of work, must work. This is America and we do have compassion. I know people that are going to receive unemployment benefits for 3 consecutive years! Do you want us to give them benefits for longer than that?

          This recession is not going to be a quick and easy fix, but you and I BOTH know we must reduce the size and cost of government programs. The current GOP legislators are going to do just this.

          You do care about my opinion Citizen, even though we have different opinions. This is why you wrote me back.

          1. Citizen says:

            @Southern MN Mom. I just want you to elucidate your opinions so everyone can see how half-baked they are. In order for people to work, there have to be jobs–something your GOP party promised, but, of course, can’t deliver because they are too busy with social engineering projects and name-calling. And, by the way, those weren’t compliments. You do get sarcasm, don’t you? LMAO.

            1. eastside_evil says:

              “I am not against helping people, but only for those permanently disabled”

              Hilarious. I got smashed in the head in an accident (not my fault) 3 years ago and couldn’t even stand up for 3 months, let alone work, answer the phone, or have any fun.

              Should they have just euthanized me, ya think? What about my 5 kids? They should be allowed to starve and die right?

              1. To Wisc. resident eastside says:

                You must be sort of old,because only a fool would have 5 kids in this day and age.

            2. southern MN Mom says:


              Do you work? Perhaps you are a “Silver Spooner” suffering from guilt because most everything in your life was given to you, just like your beloved Governor Dayton.

              Really now, do you have a job? You are all over this site, EVERYDAY and it seems ALL DAY! You are either: unemployed, a “Silver Spooner” or paid to post all day! Which is it?

              GOP NAME CALLING? You have got to be kidding right? Go back and read your own posts! Read the posts of your liberal/socialist/marxist comrades.

              GOP NAME CALLING? You are kidding right?

  25. @ citizen says:

    I’m back, just got done kicking some dog that was eating out of my garbage can. I admit it, it is hard to be compassionate to people that steal from me everyday. “teach a democrat” that’s wishful thinking. Wow are you a freeloader, your post implies that the few rich people should pay for everyone, Don’t you have any pride?

  26. Citizen says:

    Interesting that @citizen can’t even leave a nom de plume. Just anonymous namecalling without even a moniker. Oh, and by the way, funny person, kicking a dog is a felony in Minnesota…. be careful….

  27. Erika Thorne says:

    I just called Senator Hann’s office (Republican chair of HHS Committee) to ask him how on earth he can say that MN Care is financially infeasible for Minnesota? When people with pre-existing conditions who cannot even get coverage, and workers who don’t have a wage that will pay for MN Comprehensive (which must take you regardless of pre-existing conditions and is even more expensive than other insurers) don’t have MN Care research is very clear what happens: People go without maintenance care, wait until conditions are very serious and expensive, go to the emergency room and/or hospital and don’t pay their bills. Where is the savings in that? Senator Hann is using the economy as a reason to make one of the most uneconomical moves for MN right now, especially given that in just 3 years there will be federal help for this same population. Doesn’t make sense.

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