A lifeline to health care hangs in the balance


The state Legislature’s Health and Human Services conference committee has proposed repealing health-care coverage through Medical Assistance for more than 100,000 Minnesotans, part of an “all cuts” budget being pushed by the Republican leadership.

Among those who rely on the program is Rebecca Smith of Plymouth, who suffered a traumatic brain injury last year and still needs prescriptions costing $1,500 a month.

“So if MA were to ever be cut, it would be life threatening for me because I really need the prescriptions. I never know to this day when I might need access to the neurologist or to the neurosurgeon.”

Smith suffered her injury after moving back to the Twin Cities following a stint in the Army. She was working two jobs at the time, but neither offered health insurance.

“You never know when you might end up needing that type of care and that type of medical expense covered, and then you never know if you have a job you lose your benefits one day.”

Without MA, she says, she would have gone bankrupt trying to cover the $500,000 in medical costs that piled up after the head injury that nearly claimed her life.

The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition is among the groups asking lawmakers to reconsider cutting Medical Assistance. Its executive director, Brian Rusche, says such a cut would cost the state even more in the long term because those without coverage will still get ill.

“People still need health care, so those costs are going to show up in very inefficient, expensive ways. So it is penny-wise and pound foolish.”

As human beings, Rusche says, it’s our obligation to make sure everybody has access to affordable basic health care services.

More on Smith’s story and other impacts from proposed budget cuts are online at jrlc.org.