Medical Assistance contingency plan removed from HF9


One of two health care bills on a fast-track to comply with federal health care reforms is on its way to the House floor without a previous contingency plan aimed at protecting the state’s financial burden, if federal funds disappear.

HF9, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), would allow the state to exercise its option under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand Medical Assistance coverage to certain individuals who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In turn, the federal government would reimburse the state for all of the costs associated with some of those individuals, rather than at the current 50 percent rate, for two years and at a 90 percent return rate for several years after that.

Last week, Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) added a contingency plan to the bill in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, which Huntley chairs, so that if the federal government fails to provide the funding as promised, the eligibility standards would revert back to current law. The contingency plan is prudent due to the current federal deficit, Abeler said.

But on Tuesday, that contingency plan was removed from the bill, which was approved as amended by the House Ways and Means Committee and referred to the House Floor. Huntley said removal was necessary to align the bill’s language with that of its Senate companion, SF5 sponsored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato).The Senate Finance Committee awaits action on the companion.

Abeler said he could not support the bill as amended.

According to Huntley, the bill would not have any impact on the General Fund and could end up saving the state $129 million in the 2014-2015 biennium, and an estimated $237 million the following biennium. By 2017, about 41, 500 additional individuals could be receiving Medical Assistance as a result of the expansion.

The legislation must be passed by March 15, along with another major health care reform bill, HF5, that must meet a federal deadline to establish a Minnesota Health Care Insurance Exchange. Both bills are affiliated with compliance under the Affordable Care Act.