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Clock Ticking as Health Coverage for MN's Poorest Runs Out

January 4, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota's poorest could be hit the hardest three months from now when it comes to health coverage. In March, General Assistance Medical Care - called GAMC - is expected to run out of money. GAMC covers more than 35,000 Minnesota adults who earn less than $8,000 a year - many are homeless or have disabilities. The governor ended funding for the program in an effort to balance the state budget.

Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalitionm, is calling on the legislature to fix the funding problem early in the session.

"It's really unfortunate that this state would turn a corner and begin to say that some people don't deserve health care because they don't have money. It's the first evidence that we're going to ration health care on the basis of poverty - and that is shocking to the moral conscience."

The Pawlenty administration has proposed moving most GAMC enrollees into MinnesotaCare, but that could result in funding problems for MinnesotaCare as early as 2011.

Rusche says those covered by GAMC will be understandably frightened once they learn they are no longer covered. Many will just go without medical care, he expects.

"To not provide treatment for those ongoing chronic conditions will be, in some cases, ridiculously expensive, because things will escalate into more expensive conditions. In some cases, I fear it will be fatal, that we will see some unnecessary deaths."

In some Minnesota localities, indigent and county-assisted burials have been climbing during these tough economic times, according to county public health department records, even with health care programs still in place. Rusche says the poorest shouldn't bear the ultimate burden of state financial troubles.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN