Reinstate funding for MinnesotaCare

As the number of uninsured Minnesotans increases, Pawlenty seeks to cut access.

For the first time since Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s election, Minnesota is running a budget surplus, and yet the governor continues to slash dedicated health-care funding for the neediest in Minnesota.

In 1992 the Minnesota government enacted the landmark state-supported health-insurance program MinnesotaCare. This program set Minnesota apart from the rest of the nation by recognizing that health costs are unaffordable for many Americans and especially for the working poor.

Under MinnesotaCare many working families in Minnesota received adequate and consistent health care for the first time, but that changed in 2003 when the newly elected governor began raiding the insurance program’s dedicated funding.

When MinnesotaCare first was established, a 2 percent health-care provider tax – a tax that had the support of the Minnesota medical community – was set up to create a surplus known as the Health Care Access Fund. This fund was dedicated solely to pay for MinnesotaCare, but Pawlenty, seeing a politically safe and expedient way to get more money, decided rules don’t apply to him.

With his six-figure salary, the governor lamented that all Minnesotans had to share the pain in resolving state debt. In reality, it was just the working poor who would suffer under Pawlenty’s leadership.

Due to budget deficits and his illogical “no new taxes” pledge, Pawlenty claimed it was necessary to start restricting eligibility to MinnesotaCare. Last year 30,000 adults were cut from the program, while the governor siphoned off money from the Health Care Access Fund to pay for his political initiatives.

This year could be different. The state is not running deficits and the governor has the opportunity to reinstate health care to the thousands of people he kicked off it simply by using the dedicated funding in the way it originally was intended.

Unfortunately the governor seems to be drunk with power and satisfied with the idea of using the Health Care Access Fund as his own personal slush fund.