Republican love for catch phrase to cost Minnesota hospitals $100 million


Yesterday’s Post Bulletin reported in State budget deal will cost Mayo Clinic millions:

The final budget deal that brought an end to the 2010 legislative session spells bad financial news for Mayo Clinic.

Clinic lobbyist Frank Iossi said Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System stand to lose $20 million to $25 million a year because lawmakers chose not to enroll in an expanded Medicaid program available at the federal level. On top of that, he said hospitals had agreed to a 2-percent rate cut and to delay rebasing, which reassesses Medicaid rates, in order to get the Medicaid expansion. But while those additional cuts went through, the Medicaid expansion got bogged down in political wrangling.

“Hospitals paid for the state’s share of early enrollment in Medicaid but didn’t get it,” Iossi said.

In total, Iossi said the 2-percent cut will cost hospitals statewide $44 million – and roughly a $6.6 million cut for Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System. The rebasing delay also amounts to an estimated $100 million loss for hospitals statewide.

And who blocked it? The story continues:

On Monday, Republican and DFL legislative leaders stopped in Rochester as part of a statewide tour to offer their takes on the final budget deal. Republicans touted their efforts to block the Medicaid expansion, calling it part of “Obamacare.”

“Yesterday was effectively a referendum on Obamacare,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said.

Democrats called on Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty to take advantage of a provision in the final budget deal, which gives him and the next governor the authority to enroll in the early Medicaid expansion.

Lovely. Earlier in the week, the Mankato Free Press reported:

. . .Democrats said they’ve put Pawlenty or the next governor in a position to enroll early in a federal Medicaid program that will create and preserve 22,000 health care jobs.

Pawlenty has indicated he won’t sign up for the plan, and Rep. Tom Emmer – the Republican candidate to replace the retiring two-term governor – was adamantly opposed during an earlier stop in Mankato.

Republicans will insist on Minnesota handling health care for its own population and ensuring that the state’s residents have the right to choose which doctor they want to see. If a Democrat is elected governor, they’ll sign up for the program.

“They will opt into Obamacare,” Emmer said.

Pogemiller and Sen. Linda Berglin, the long-time chairwoman of the Senate committee overseeing health and human services spending, said Republicans are attempting to deceive voters about what the Medicaid program is about.

“This early enrollment has nothing to do with Obamacare, as they like to call it,” Pogemiller said.

The program, which would cost $188 million in state funds while bringing in $1.8 billion in federal funding, was started under the administration of President George W. Bush, Pogemiller said.

“Some state is going to get the money, and it might as will be us,” he said.

Berglin said the program, which would be aimed at low-income uninsured adults, doesn’t affect a patient’s ability to choose a doctor and would allow more choice in care for many. Berglin also noted that Minnesota currently gets just 72 cents back for every $1 state residents pay in federal taxes.

“Bringing in these dollars would help rectify that situation,” she said.

State Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital and all other hospitals that took a stand on the issue are strongly in favor of enrolling in the program. Refusing to enroll will result in uninsured low-income patients being treated by hospitals without compensation.

“That means either closures, lay-offs or shifts of these costs to those who pay,” Sheran said.

The Republican Party was always willing to evoke the name of Mayo when conjuring the demons of socialized medicine. A good example was Michele Bachmann claiming in a visit to Rochester earlier this year that health care reform would create a 30 percent cut for the Mayo Clinic for example (watch her discuss this at the 2:15 marker in the Post Bulletin video embededd in this post)

But in reality, they don’t hesitate to play political games of the worst sort that short it and Minnesota hospitals millions, all in the name of a campaign catch phrase.

Here’s the memo from the Minnesota Hospital Association noting their support of the early enrollment option. Hospital memo_1[pdf file].

Lori Sellner, chair of the First District DFL, sent a press release responding to the hit Southern Minnesota’s hospitals are taking:

Sleepy Eye, MN – In the closing hours of the 2010 legislative session, State Representative Randy Demmer repeatedly voted in lock step with his political party against early enrollment for Minnesotans into Medicaid. The legislation would have returned $7.45 to Minnesota for every dollar we send to the federal government through Medicaid provisions totaling a loss of $1.4 billion.

The legislation was supported strongly by rural hospitals and the Mayo Clinic because it would grant Minnesota early access to the 45 year old Medicaid program and significantly more funding for rural hospitals.

Lori Sellner, 1st District Chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party released the following statement:

“Rep. Demmer’s cynical partisan votes are costing Minnesota over one billion dollars. Minnesotans send a lot of taxes to Washington and Randy Demmer voted against getting that money back. His decision to play politics is financially devastating to our state and southern Minnesota hospitals.”

“Rep. Demmer chose partisan politics over the Mayo Clinic and hospitals in Winona, Owatonna, Mankato and Worthington. Rep. Demmer’s cynical decision to put his political party ahead of southern Minnesota is unacceptable. Now we know Randy Demmer places politics ahead of southern Minnesota and it is clear we can’t afford to have him in Congress.”