A budget lacking the Olympic spirit


The Olympics is all about exceptional athletes who dedicate numerous, almost uncountable hours to training for the chance to shine and stand above the rest for one glorious moment in time. The games and its athletes help us see all the things that are achievable if we make an honest attempt, and how even the most obscure of sports deserves and receives international attention, if only for a few days every four hours.

In contrast, the governor’s proposed budget seems to aim for the exact opposite. It is a budget that will effectively put Minnesota somewhere in the murky middle, far away from the podium and glory of being extremely good at something.

Governor Pawlenty has proposed cuts to MinnesotaCare in addition to the elimination of GAMC. His justification for doing such is that MinnesotaCare is too generous and out of sync with the rest of the country, and that most states don’t even have programs like GAMC or MinnesotaCare. In fact, single adults without children are typically not covered much or at all, and definitely not at the level of Minnesota. Cutting the programs that has long put Minnesota on the podium, and sometimes even at the very top, will effectively make Minnesota less like the Olympic heroes we so admire and more like one of the many whose names are so far down on the list that we don’t even know their names.

We have previously written about the Statewide Health Insurance Program and the positive efforts the program are making to ensure a systematic and community wide change in our state. The program was regarded to be so well thought through that it was used to model a federal program. SHIP was something to be proud of, similar to the through-and-through Minnesota representation of the American men’s curling team. The program has now lost $10 million, or 21 percent of its total funding.

Last fall Minnesota 2020 also wrote a piece on Minnesota’s dismal Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes. At that point the state was facing the possibility of multiple nursing home closures, as 28 percent of all nursing facilities were operating with an operating margin of negative 5 percent or more. The proposed budget includes cutting payment to nursing homes by 2.5 percent further taking away from their ability to offer quality care to our senior citizens.

In the spirit of the Olympics, I wish the governor would dream big or go home, and realize that being one of few states who take care of those single adults who usually fall between the cracks is what makes us truly great. Even more so than supplying most of the American curling teams.