Artificial deadline with real consequences


January 15th is a very important date for many Minnesotans. It’s the last day the state can opt in to the early Medicaid expansion.

It would would bring a $1.4 billion boost to Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s Medicaid program. That extra health care funding would come in real handy with the state facing a more than $7 billion inflation-adjust budget deficit.

When presented with the choice, Gov. Pawlenty was one of the few governors to reject federal funds. Since the program is ongoing, the next governor is allowed to confirm (or reverse) Pawlenty’s decision.  Last May, lawmakers set the deadline at January 15th.

With the re-count behind him, Dayton has stated publicly that he will opt Minnesota into the new federal funds “…on January 3rd, if possible,” asking the Attorney General’s office to prepare the necessary papers as quickly as possible. This gives hope to tens of thousands of Minnesotans who lost their coverage because of funding reductions.

With the funding infusion, Medical Assistance (MA) will likely be extended to cover many who have fallen off other state programs, specifically GAMC and MinnesotaCare.

For instance, the expanded federal Medicaid/MA funds could be extend to those under age 65 (and making less than 133% of the poverty level). Many former GAMC recipients (a program specifically for 21-64 year olds) will therefore likely qualify. It remains to be seen if all those who have lost coverage due to the cuts will be able to qualify again.

Dayton and health officials will need to make sure the program’s expansion is made known to them and systems will have to be put in place to make sure no one falls between the cracks.