- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that congressional Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce health insurance access and increase costs in Minnesota, citing state estimates that the replacement’s changes to Medicaid funding could trigger more than $2 billion in lost federal funding by 2018.

The Democratic governor’s critique comes on the heels of a recent federal estimate that 14 million people would lose insurance coverage in the first year under Republicans’ health care bill - a sum that may grow to 24 million in the following decade. Democrats and conservative Republicans alike have criticized the plan.

In Minnesota, state officials have largely focused on the bill’s effects to Medicaid, the program for low-income residents that was drastically expanded - and funded - by President Barack Obama’s health care law. More than 900,000 Minnesota residents are covered on Medical Assistance, the state’s name for the program.

An analysis by the state’s Department of Human Services suggests they would lose more than $2 billion by 2018, triggering cuts to services for seniors, children and adults with disabilities. By 2030, the federal government’s funding for Medicaid in Minnesota would be down by more than $4.3 billion a year. Meanwhile, the proposed federal changes would entirely eliminate MinnesotaCare, the state’s supplemental program for working poor residents that covers roughly 90,000.

“This would put coverage at risk for 1.2 million Minnesota seniors, children, and people with disabilities,” Dayton said in a statement on Tuesday. “Changes are needed, at both the state and federal level, to make health care more affordable and accessible to Minnesotans, not less.”

Minnesota has struggled with rising premiums and instability in the individual market, where shoppers who aren’t covered by employers or on public programs can buy insurance. After several years of steady rate increases, premiums jumped by as much as 67 percent for 2017 as ever insurance company considered leaving the market altogether.

Dayton has proposed creating a public health care option to allow all residents to buy into MinnesotaCare. But the Republicans who control the Legislature are advancing a new $400 million reinsurance program to help hold rising costs down by covering insurers’ heavy losses from expensive medical claims.

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