Minnesota health care cuts getting personal


by Ted Modrich | June 12th, 2009 • Near the end of the legislative session, Governor Pawlenty vetoed funding for the Greater Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program and now Regions Hospital in St. Paul is working to help legislators understand the consequences of these cuts.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

The GAMC program covers 34,000 Minnesotans who earn less than $7,800 a year, and is set to end July 2010, unless the legislature and governor reinstate the program during next year’s session. GAMC funding provides 5% of Regions Hospital’s revenue, which will result in a loss of $36.3 million in reimbursements. Regions, the second largest safety-net hospital after Hennepin County Medical Center, sent a letter to state legislators trying put a face to the GAMC cuts.

For the week of May 18th, Regions admitted 237 Minnesotans enrolled in GAMC, 80 of those in the emergency room, 28 in patient care, 2 had same-day surgery, and 127 were in outpatient services. The total bill: $384,630. The letter also highlighted the story of a 23 year-old auto mechanic with no health insurance:

“After he came into the emergency room with a headache, doctors diagnosed a brain tumor, which despite two surgeries, left him blind in the right eye. He can no longer work as a mechanic, but he doesn’t qualify for state medical programs because he is not completely blind and is not considered disabled. His bill so far: $150,000.”

Adding fuel to the fire, Governor Pawlenty is expected to cut health care programs further during the unallotment process. Pawlenty’s spokesman said, “In this time of economic challenge, many programs, including health care for single adults without children, have to be reined in.” Without reimbursements, Regions will be unable to bear the costs of providing care for these types of cases. This will only serve to increase rates for those with health care as well.

Governor Pawlenty is simply wrong: everyone deserves health care. Times of economic challenge do not excuse denying health care to the poorest among us. If anything, these times merit more help to those most in need.

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