Medical Assistance expands to cover more Minnesotans

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More than 35,000 additional low-wage earners may qualify for Medical Assistance coverage as a result of a new law that extends coverage to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 per year.

The law, signed Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton, allows the state to exercise its option under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand Medical Assistance.

When the uninsured are treated in emergency rooms, hospitals either suffer a loss or pass those costs onto insured patients. Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), who sponsors the law with Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), said expanding Medical Assistance coverage will result in less uncompensated care and raises reimbursements to health care providers.

“This legislation allows us to cover more Minnesotans with health insurance and at the same time get more bang for our buck for Minnesota taxpayers,” Huntley said.

The federal government will pick up the tab for 100 percent of the expansion through 2016. Beginning in 2017, the federal government will gradually reduce that support to 90 percent of the expansion until 2020.

The state is expected to save $129 million in the 2014-2015 biennium, and an estimated $237 million the following biennium, according to Huntley.

Increases in income limits will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Current eligibility covers adults without minor children who earn up to 75 percent of the federal poverty level. In addition to the newly eligible, thousands of people currently enrolled in the state-offered MinnesotaCare health insurance program are expected to shift to the expanded federal program, which will not include limits on hospitalization as MinnesotaCare does.