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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Governor Dayton's First Order of Business Expands Medicaid

From Public News Service-MN, January 06, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota's Medicaid program is being expanded to include 95,000 low-income residents.

In his first official action as governor, Mark Dayton signed two executive orders Wednesday to extend the coverage and bring the state more than $1 billion in federal funds. The action effectively scraps former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's August order barring state agencies from accepting the federal dollars.

Republican lawmakers warn the move will worsen the state's budget deficit. The expansion is expected to cost Minnesota $384 million in the next two years, and already is included in the state's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Advocates are encouraged by Dayton's action. Deborah Schlick, executive director of the Affirmative Options Coalition says the decision shows that the new governor understands the consequences of not providing health insurance to the state's most vulnerable populations.

"Because people still get ill, and they get seriously ill, and that becomes very expensive. And if there isn't health insurance for people, then somebody's going to pay. It's going to drain the resources that hospitals, that health plans use to provide health-care services to everyone in Minnesota."

Schlick says Dayton's action also consolidates the state's public health programs.

"We've gone from three public insurance programs to two, and that's good - it's effective, smart use of resources."

The governor's office estimates the Medicaid expansion will protect 20,000 health-care jobs across Minnesota.

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