Autoenrollment evades statute

State lawmakers are working on a new program to replace GAMC.

by Jessica Van Berkel

The autoenrollment of Minnesotans from General Assistance Medical Care into MinnesotaCare is illegal and would bankrupt the program, some legislators say. House and Senate lawmakers will meet Dec. 14 to work on a new program to replace GAMC, Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said. They plan to formulate a replacement they can put on the table in the first week of the legislative session, which begins Feb. 4. To enroll in Minnesota Care, a state subsidized program that caps at $10,000, an individual must complete a new application, according to the state statute on the responsibility to provide general assistance. The autoenrollment proposed by the Department of Human Services and Gov. Tim Pawlenty would bypass the statue, in what Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said is a âÄúhumanitarianâÄù measure. Most people concerned about the GAMC population âÄúwould be happy if they could be let in without having to do anything,âÄù Abeler said. But if the autoenrollment, which is scheduled to occur March 1, is implemented without reform, recipients will not be covered for long, Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said. Someone can be enrolled in GAMC for up to six months. People in their fifth month who are autoenrolled in MinnesotaCare will be left with only one month before their coverage runs out, Berglin said. The recent budget projection showed the need for a $111 million transfer from the stateâÄôs general fund to the Health Care Access Fund, primarily as a result of the transfer of GAMC recipients, Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, said. GAMC covers about 35,000 Minnesotans, the majority of whom have chemical dependency or mental health problems. Having a âÄúconsistent, ongoing medical care with a provider they can trust is so important,âÄù Loeffler said. The people on GAMC would all qualify for MinnesotaCare âÄúexcept for a handful of them,âÄù due to residency differences, Abeler said. The Department of Human Services said about 28,000 people would be autoenrolled. MinnesotaCare is not an adequate program for the GAMC population, Huntley said. It has a $10,000 cap, which you can burn through in a couple days in the hospital, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said. The replacement provisions that legislators are working on are just a bridge as the state waits for federal reform to health care, which should cover the low-income population, Huntley said. After the U.S. Senate votes on their version of the health care reform bill, it will go to a conference committee with the House; with hopes of having a combined bill on the presidentâÄôs desk by mid-January, said University of Minnesota professor Jean Abraham, who spent the past year in Washington, D.C., on the presidentâÄôs Council of Economic Advisers. In the meantime, âÄúnothing precludes the administration and legislators from developing other solutions to serve people now on GAMC,âÄù said Department of Human Services spokeswoman Karen Smigielski in an e-mail statement. The legislative meetings are discussing how to scale back, but they do not plan to eliminate GAMC, Huntley said. The committee working on the issue is trying to get bipartisan agreement and to work with the governorâÄôs office to avoid another veto, Thissen said.