Last year, it was the federal stimulus bill that helped state lawmakers plug a $4.6 billion deficit for the 2010-2011 budget cycle, by increasing funding for education, health and welfare programs.
This year, DFL lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are both counting on nearly $400 million in increased Medicaid funding to help plug an additional $1 billion hole in the state budget that has since opened up.
Even with that, DFLers budget plans still left a big hole in the Health and Human Services budget that was going to have to be filled with painful cuts. Until Congress finally passed its health care reform bill, that is.
As a result of that bill, Minnesota could receive up to $330 million in increased federal subsidies for its low- and moderate-income public health insurance programs, General Assistance Medical Care and MinnesotaCare, according to Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth.
Huntley, who heads the House Health Care and Human Services Finance Division, told Minnesota Public Radio that the additional money will reduce the overall cuts that need to be made to the state’s Health and Human Services budget, from about $323 million to about $100 million.
Some of that money was going to come from a compromise bill to downsize the GAMC program the Senate passed that would save about $150 million. In light of the federal health reform bill, Huntley said that a vote on the bill in the House this week should be rescheduled to see if it’s necessary.
The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, however, suggested the House should pass the bill anyway because on April 1, people will start being enrolled out of GAMC and into other health care options that could cost them more or provide less coverage.