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Persell disputes Howes on Medicaid proposal

I'm disappointed that Rep. Larry Howes opposes early MA given what's at stake for our communities. This is one of those good deals that are just too good to pass up.

Minnesota has been offered the opportunity to move 100,000 people to Medicaid, a federal program that's been around for over 40 years. Not only will their coverage improve, reimbursement rates to health care providers will go up, thousands of jobs will be protected, and Minnesota will draw down $1.4 billion from the federal government.

Rep. Howes implied that Minnesota must spend $1.4 billion in new money to generate the $1.4 billion federal match. The truth is, we're already spending $1.2 billion to insure Minnesotans who earn less than $8,000 a year. Unless Rep. Howes wants to completely eliminate coverage for these Minnesotans altogether, which I can't believe he does, we will continue to spend $1.2 billion even if we reject the Medicaid option. Republicans like to talk about fiscal responsibility, but to turn down this much money just doesn't make good financial sense. Especially when this money, our federal tax dollars, will go to Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, or any of the other 10 eligible states if we decline.

Rural legislators should be able to agree on what's best for our communities. Our family and friends depend on local health care providers and our constituents depend on the jobs they provide. Even more serious, since the collapse of the GAMC compromise, hundreds of people living in our region no longer have health care coverage -- unless they want to travel to the Twin Cities, that is.

This extra $1.4 billion will reimburse health care providers across the state for treating the poorest and sickest Minnesotans, care they are currently providing for free. The Bemidji hospital alone would get an extra $6 million over the next three years. Actually getting paid for the care they provide will help our hospitals keep costs down for all of us. If you don't believe me, ask any of our regional health care providers what this improved funding would mean to their bottom line.

In May 2009, Rep. Howes voted for a Republican amendment nearly identical to the early MA option he now opposes. It was a good deal for Bemidji then, it's an even better deal now. Let's set politics aside and do the right thing for the people we serve.

John Persell


Minnesota House