Local health care hurdles

Minnesota’s reform debate has its own nuances.

In Minnesota, one of the more hotly contested components of the health care debate is the proposed cancellation of General Assistance Medical Care. Funding for GAMC, which serves approximately 35,000 impoverished adults every day, was line-item vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last year and is set to expire at the end of next month. Certainly, there are better ways to save $381 million than to yank services set aside for our societyâÄôs most vulnerable. Public outcry against the programâÄôs cancellation has been intense, and in recent weeks state lawmakers have been struggling to extend or reinstate funding. Adding to the atmosphere of anxiety over health care are reports that MinnesotaâÄôs statewide uninsured are up to 9 percent of the population âÄî up 27 percent since 2007. Health care also promises to figure prominently in MinnesotaâÄôs upcoming gubernatorial race. State Sen. John Marty, DFLâÄìRoseville, who has authored a bill that would establish a single-payer universal health care system for Minnesota, is among those running for governor. Marty has put the issue at the forefront of his campaign. Others arenâÄôt too far behind him. A December survey of Democratic candidates for governor conducted by the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition showed nearly unanimous support for either âÄúuniversalâÄù or âÄúsingle-payerâÄù plans. Nine of 11 respondents also said they would âÄúgo beyond federal reforms in order to expand coverage.âÄù So donâÄôt expect to hear the end of the health care debate any time soon, even if Congress passes sweeping national reform. Minnesotans will do well to watch the issue locally, where a unique set of challenges and ambitions is emerging.