The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 26, 2013

Sheran: Unfinished business in health and welfare bill

MANKATO — The state Senate’s two-year $11.3 billion budget for health care and welfare programs, passed early Friday morning, represents both progress and unfinished business, Sen. Kathy Sheran said.

The Mankato Democrat and chair of the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee said Friday that the Legislature contended with a 10-year legacy of no revenue increases.

“We had to accept some limitations on how far we were able to fix things this year. We can’t dig ourselves out of the hole we were in in one biennium,” she said.

Democrats also operated under a self-imposed constraint from their leadership: The final health and human services bill had to have a cut of about $150 million.

The Senate approved the 587-page health and human services bill on a 36-26 vote just after midnight, after a long day that also included debates and passage of the K-12 education bill.

Sheran said she’s still hoping Democrats find a way to increase revenue so that the $150 million cut is reduced or erased.

The bill contained sweeping changes to the state’s health care program for the poor, MinnesotaCare, as well as changes to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Car Act, better known as Obamacare. Among the changes:

n State-funded health care, called MinnesotaCare, will no longer have a $10,000 cap on hospital stays. It will also pay the premiums of those earning up to 200 percent of the poverty level.

n Pregnant women and children making up to 275 percent of the poverty level, up from 150 percent, will have access to federal health care provided through a Minnesota program, called Medical Assistance.

n Assets are no longer counted against eligibility requirement for single adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, up from 75 percent.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, was the lead Republican on this bill. She missed the Thursday night debate after a nasty case of food poisoning.

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