Governor Pawlenty has proposed to eliminate MinnesotaCare for adults without children and to continue to limit the number of persons who can access home and community waiver programs to avoid institutional care as part of his budget for the next two years. Also, the Governor did not fund any cost-of-living (COLA) increase for home and community services programs and staff, although nursing facilities would receive a 2 percent increase. In addition, none of the harmful health care cuts imposed in 2003, such as co-payments, the $500 annual limit on dental care, the $125 per month cut for low-income families with SSI and the steep parent fee increases, were remedied in the Governor’s proposed budget. The Governor is cutting health care services as part of a plan to close a $1.4 billion (including inflation) deficit for the next biennium without raising taxes.
The Governor’s proposed budget, unveiled January 25, 2005, cuts $80 million by terminating MinnesotaCare health coverage for about 38,000 low-income adults without children and 8,200 parents on MinnesotaCare. Adults without children, a number of whom have chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and bipolar disorder, have been told they have three options:
1) get private coverage;
2) spend down their income to $582 per month and assets to $1,000 to qualify for General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) or;
3) do without health care.
Minnesota’s hospitals have presented information showing a significant jump in uncompensated care in the past year, which is arguably due to cuts in health care coverage made during the 2003 Session. There is concern that further cuts will not only be devastating for the individuals affected, but will further increase uncompensated care which is then spread to the remaining insured population through higher costs and insurance premiums.
The caseload limits for the home and community waiver program will mean that nearly 4,500 persons with disabilities will not be able to obtain services through the CADI (nursing home level of care), TBI (traumatic brain injury), and DD (for persons with developmental disabilities) waiver programs. The Governor’s proposed cut in the home and community waiver programs will save the state $51 million for the ‘06, ‘07 biennium, but result in a loss of $103 million in service funding because our state will lose out on federal Medicaid matching funds. The continued limitation of resources for persons with disabilities who are trying to avoid institutional care and maintain or improve their functioning in the community will cause serious individual hardship, pressure on county budgets and increased waiting lists.
While proposing significant and painful cuts to health care, the Governor also proposes to increase the staff at the Department of Human Services by 71 positions.
The Governor’s budget will be considered by both bodies of the Legislature as they each develop separate budget bills. Persons with disabilities affected by these proposals can contact their legislators by going to the State of Minnesota legislative website: www.state.leg.mn.us and by participating in hearings and rallies at the Capitol which will be publicized through information from disability groups and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and here at Access Press at www.testing.accesspress.org.