Bills prepare for end of GAMC program


As the clock ticks against General Assistance Medical Care, the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee approved two bills on the topic: one that would extend GAMC by more than a year and another that sets a contingency plan for the program’s demise.

Sponsored by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), HF2680 would create a temporary GAMC program to begin March 1, the date the current program is scheduled to end. Under the proposal, services and co-payments covered under the current GAMC program would remain the same, as would enrollment procedures. Current eligibility requirements would also stand, though some categories of individuals – including those in jail or part of the sex offender program – would be excluded.

To help pay for the temporary program, the bill would require a 10 percent county share for GAMC costs from March 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. Counties would be given the option to partner with each other to provide health care and supportive services to GAMC participants within their region, possibly through a managed care plan or integrated delivery system.

Additional sources of revenue would come from an increase in surcharges on hospitals, HMOs and community integrated service networks.

Murphy called the legislation a “less-than-beautiful proposal.” But, she said, it’s a start.

“I remain open to everyone’s ideas and I really am confident in our ability to solve this problem this session,” she said.

The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee, as was a bill that anticipates GAMC’s end.

HF2736 plans for the transfer of current GAMC participants to a different state health care program, MinnesotaCare. Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), the bill’s sponsor, called it a fall-back solution.

“This bill is different because this bill says what if GAMC does go away and they do move into MinnesotaCare,” he said. “How do we deal with the very legitimate problems that the stakeholders have brought forward, and so that is what I am trying to deal with within this bill.” (Watch part of his testimony.)

The bill asks state officials to survey past GAMC participants to determine whether some people may be better served under a modified version of MinnesotaCare. For those people, the legislation creates a county-based, health care home program that would be voluntary for participants.

A companion to Murphy’s bill, SF2168, sponsored by Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Economic Development and Housing Budget Division. Dean’s bill does not have a Senate companion.