Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Senate bill expands health care coverage

ST. PAUL - Minnesota farmers, children and low-income parents would see expanded public health care options in a Senate human services funding plan approved Thursday.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota farmers, children and low-income parents would see expanded public health care options in a Senate human services funding plan approved Thursday.

The legislation, which calls for nearly $500 million in new state spending, broadens coverage to government health insurance and encourages participation from Minnesotans who are eligible for programs but not enrolled.

Under the proposal approved 42-23, participation in the subsidized MinnesotaCare health insurance program for lower-income residents could be expanded to include young adults, parents and about 30,000 children, said bill author Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis.

Senators voted to simplify the application process for public health insurance, move toward use of electronic medical records and set a 2010 goal for reaching universal health care coverage.

"We want to make sure our health care reforms meet the needs of Minnesota's children and families by providing them access to affordable health care insurance," Berglin said.


Bucks gov., House

The bill doesn't include Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's key health care reforms and even conflicts with a human services budget bill from House Democrats, who want to offer state health care coverage for all uninsured Minnesota children.

Still, Senate Democrats promoted several of their initiatives, including a provision allowing companies with fewer than 50 employees to buy into MinnesotaCare.

"This is really going to be a true help for those small employers" who want to recruit skilled workers but can't afford to offer health coverage, said Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick.

Farmers eligibleAnother measure changes MinnesotaCare requirements so more farmers are eligible for the program. Still another part of the bill removes insurance waiting periods for kids.

"We have far too many children in this state who don't have access to insurance coverage," said Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, tried to repeal a measure providing public health care coverage to undocumented children.

"We're talking about folks that are not legally here. It's as simple as that," he said, suggesting the savings could be spent on nursing homes.


Prohibiting access to MinnesotaCare will cost taxpayers more in the future because undocumented children would be treated in emergency rooms rather than preventative care clinics, Berglin said.

Nursing home aidThe bill also increases state aid to nursing homes over the next two years, though part of the boost relies on controversial tax increases. Also, in 2009, the state would modify its reimbursement formula, benefiting most nursing homes.

Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, said that while he was glad the Senate approved measures bumping cost-of-living increases for nursing home workers, he was "a little disappointed" that it wasn't higher than 3.25 percent.

"Nursing homes in rural Minnesota are in real trouble," Skogen said. "They're important parts of these smaller communities."

Not all nursing homes will receive an increase in state aid.

Facilities in Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties received a 17 percent increase in state reimbursement last year after their classification was changed. They are excluded from the cost-of-living increase next year.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said the classification change wasn't an inflationary increase and so the nursing homes shouldn't be excluded from increases next year.

"It really turns them into second-class citizens," Fischbach said.


Republicans came closest to making a controversial change in the bill when they tried restoring funding to clinics counseling women with unexpected pregnancies.

State Capitol Bureau reporter Mike Longaecker contributed to this story. He and Wente work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

What To Read Next
Get Local