GAMC cuts hurt us all
Overcrowded emergency rooms? Rising crime? Increased homelessness? All of these could occur as a result of the governor’s decision to
eliminate the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program on March 1,
2010. Through both a veto of all funding to the program this past legislative session and the governor’s use of unallotment, thousands of Minnesotans will now lose their health-care coverage.
From a fiscal perspective, the decision to eliminate health-care
insurance for struggling Minnesotans makes no sense. Health-care needs do
not disappear with the swipe of a veto pen. Instead the cost will be shifted to our struggling hospitals and those with private insurance.
While the govenor’s plan saves approximately $400 million in the upcoming two years, the elimination of this important safe ty net will have serious consequences, not only for the low-income Minnesotans that rely on the program to receive needed medical treatments, but for our entire health-care and social service sector. This program serves the poorest of the poor, those making $8,000 or less annually. Why would we do such a thing to people in a time of such severe economic recession?
General Assistance Medical Care is a state-funded program that was established by the Legislature in 1975. It currently provides health care for over 30,000 adults without children who are below 75 percent of the federal poverty guideline. The majority of individuals on the program face mental illness and chemical-dependency issues. Many advocates, hospitals and health-care experts worry that eliminating health-care coverage for these individuals could have a detrimental effect on other social service areas, such as an increase in suicide, homelessness, unemployment, crime, and the use of expensive emergency room care. We know that when individuals don’t have health insurance they will wait until problems are severe and more difficult to treat. They also go to emergency rooms, which is the most expensive place to receive care. In the end this move will end up costing taxpayers more than it saves.
In order to mitigate the devastating effect of losing health
insurance through the GAMC program, many more people will turn to MinnesotaCare. Minn-esotaCare was established as a health insurance program for working Minnesotans, and most individuals using the program pay a premium each month. By adding nearly 30,000 more people to the MinnesotaCare program who are unable to afford the premium, the Health Care Access Fund, which helps support the MinnesotaCare program, will be bankrupt by June 30, 2012 and actually run a deficit of nearly $300 million in FY 2013. This deficit will double in FY 2014. This could mean the future loss of health care for those relying on MinnesotaCare for their health insurance.
The loss of the GAMC program could also be devastating to local hospitals. Over 7,000 hospital-related jobs are at stake with the elimination of the GAMC program. In Minneapolis, Abbott Northwestern stands to lose over $15 million from these cuts and Hennepin County Medical Center over $108 million.
The Legislature offered the governor a balanced budget, achieved through cost-saving reforms, administrative reductions, and permanent budget cuts of
6 percent in the health and human services budget. They focused spending on shared priorities. Unfortunately, what we are left with is a budget that leaves even more deficits for the future.