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Human Services commissioner shares vision for future of MinnesotaCare

Commissioner Jesson hosts roundtable in Winona with advocates, enrollees and health care providers to discuss Gov. Dayton’s budget proposal

March 25, 2013

Katie Mintz

PDF version of news release

Today, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson visited Winona, one of many communities in the state that will benefit from Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to expand MinnesotaCare coverage.

Jesson hosted a roundtable discussion with MinnesotaCare advocates, enrollees and health care providers in southeast Minnesota to share Dayton’s vision to continue and improve the historic program. For more than 20 years, MinnesotaCare has provided coverage to working Minnesotans who would not otherwise have access to affordable, meaningful health care, and inspired health care reform efforts across the nation.

“Minnesota has always been an innovator and leader in health care,” Jesson said. “We believe now it is time for us to take the next step to improve and enhance Minnesota’s health care system with a next-generation of MinnesotaCare that provides better health for enrollees and better value for taxpayers.”

Dayton’s proposed budget makes it possible for more people earning 133 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level – roughly $15,000 to $23,000 for a single adult – to get on and stay on MinnesotaCare. By 2016, it is estimated that MinnesotaCare will provide coverage to an additional 160,000 residents. In addition to serving more people, the governor’s proposal is good for the state budget. By 2016, federal funds are expected to cover nearly 95 percent of the cost. This increased federal participation will contribute to an estimated $750 million balance in the state’s Health Care Access Fund by 2017. Minnesota’s Health Care Access Fund was established in 1992 to pay for health care for low-income, working Minnesotans.

“When we originally created MinnesotaCare, our goal was to provide preventive care for the people at the bottom of the economic scale,” said roundtable participant Duane Benson, a retired state senator and one of the original Gang of 7 that created MinnesotaCare. “In the next iteration of MinnesotaCare, I hope that it continues to be driven by preventive care and that it is more transparent in terms of cost and quality. What we do now with MinnesotaCare is up to us.”

Close to 50 people from Winona and surrounding areas came together to discuss the importance of MinnesotaCare to their community members at the event. Many said care made possible by MinnesotaCare is especially important for vulnerable populations such as those with mental illness, those who are self-employed including farmers, and those who work full-time jobs but don’t have health care benefits. As of February, approximately 126,000 Minnesotans were receiving MinnesotaCare, including just over 900 Winona County residents.

Roundtable participants also included Megan Buckingham, policy program organizer for the Land Stewardship Project; Deacon Justin Green, president of the United Way of Greater Winona Area Board of Directors; Mary Kramer, certified nurse practitioner at Winona Health; Dr. Daniel Parker, chief of medical staff at Winona Health; and Margaret Walsh, Land Stewardship Project member and former MinnesotaCare enrollee.

“The lack of access to affordable health care is a serious barrier,” Buckingham said. “The health care proposals in the governor’s budget are really encouraging. Our MinnesotaCare program exemplifies our leadership in health care policy nationally. We need to keep and improve MinnesotaCare as the foundation of a health care system that works for everyone.”

More information about human services budget proposals can be found on the DHS website.

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