The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 26, 2013

Obamacare change to aid stressed counties, poor

Thousands of area residents will qualify for Medicaid; counties will verify eligibility


People can go online to MNsure to see if they’re eligible for Medicaid, which is called “Medical Assistance” in Minnesota. But they won’t be able to actually enroll for a plan — they need the counties' to help with that — for some time, perhaps six months or a year.

Counties get ready

Those counties have each received estimates from the state about how many people they can expect to come through their doors. Blue Earth County has been told to expect about 1,500 new cases and has hired three new employees.

“We really see that and presented that to our board as kind of a starting place because we’re not sure it’ll cover that or not,” Human Services Director Phil Claussen said.

Including benefits, the new employees will cost about $137,000 a year, of which the federal government is expected to reimburse about $100,000.

It’s hard to say when the newly eligible will decide to enroll, but Claussen hopes they come in early. While they can’t qualify under the new roles until Jan. 1, they can come in early and be prepared.

Nicollet and Brown counties, by contrast, did not add any new positions.

“We wanted a year to evaluate how the process would go,” Nicollet County Social Services Director Joan Tesdahl said. The department has budgeted $16,235 in overtime, though that may go higher.

Brown County Family Services Director Tom Henderson said his county is waiting, too.

“That’s because, while the state is saying there’s 550 people in Brown County who are qualified and could come our way, we are in a wait-and-see mode to see how many actually come,” he said.

The county’s eligibility caseloads are also lower than some counties, including Blue Earth.

“If we had been in that same position, we’d have hired,” he said.

Sibley and Le Sueur counties are planning to hire two new positions each. The collaborative that runs human services in Martin and Faribault counties plans to hire an employee for each county.

But the 75 percent federal match means that counties aren't too worried about the changes.

There's really no net cost to the county, Le Sueur County Administrator Darrell Pettis said.

Free Press staff writer Robb Murray contributed to this story.

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