The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 16, 2012

Our View: MinnesotaCare option is broken

A plan to shift 4,200 low-income Minnesotans covered by MinnesotaCare to a voucher system — and enabling people to move off the government rolls while continuing to receive adequate health coverage -— sounded good in theory but it isn’t working. And the state needs to own up to that.

When the GOP took control in 2011, the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program was one of its priorities. Initially, it wanted nearly everyone using MinnesotaCare to go to a voucher system. Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, led the initiative to switch saying the growth of the government sector in health is unsustainable. “I’m not persuaded … that that’s been very effective (nor) financially doable.” The GOP felt the private sector could do the job better.

There was resistance by state Democrats and from Gov. Mark Dayton until the budget impasse and the subsequent government shutdown in 2011. As part of the agreement reached by Dayton and GOP leaders to break the stalemate, the switch to vouchers would affect only 4,200 enrollees and theoretically save taxpayers $36 million over three years.

However, according to a report we published by Minnesota Public Radio, only 1,200 are receiving the subsidy leaving two thirds of these enrollees out in the cold. Examples cited included one person who was making $19,000 a year with her part-time job and received Social Security benefits. That income level allowed her to receive a state voucher of $395 monthly to buy health insurance on the private market.

However, the options presented to her included a $10,000 deductible before the insurance kicked in and that coverage had many exclusions. While another option came with a $5,000 deductible with a higher premium that nearly took all of the voucher, she determined the deductible was too expensive to afford and now she is going without health insurance.

“We are seeing fewer people who were previously enrolled in MinnesotaCare who are purchasing coverage through the Healthy Minnesota Coverage Program,” Minnesota Human Services Assistant Commissioner Scott Leitz said.

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