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March 2011 St@teside

Minnesota Expands Its Medical Assistance Program

On March 1, 2011, 12,000 currently uninsured Minnesotans became eligible for the Medical Assistance Program—the state’s Medicaid program. In mid-February, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the state’s expansion of its Medicaid program, replacing the state’s General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC). Eligibility includes childless adults under age 21 whose income is at or below the federal poverty level.

All current enrollees in GAMC will automatically be transitioned to the Medicaid program. Likewise, enrollees in MinnesotaCare—a program that provides subsidized health insurance to low- and moderate-income families and individuals—will also immediately be eligible for Medicaid benefits effective March 1.

The expansion creates broader coverage for Minnesota’s rural and vulnerable populations. GAMC enrollees were limited to receiving care in four hospitals, all located in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but Medicaid covers patient care statewide. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, state health providers are supportive of the expansion because it will provide health and dental coverage for more residents and mitigate the cost of uncompensated care.

Minnesota’s Medicaid expansion is ahead of the federal health reform’s requirement for all states to expand their Medicaid programs in 2014.The state will invest approximately $118 million over the next two years for this expansion.1 The state cost of the expansion is equivalent to the current cost of providing coverage to GAMC and MinnesotaCare enrollees who will now be in Medicaid. Governor Mark Dayton sees the expansion as a means to provide comprehensive benefits to more Minnesotans at a lower cost to the state.

1Wolski, Mark. (2011, February 28). CMS Approves State’s Expansion of Its Medical Assistance Program. BNA’s Health Care Policy Report (Subscription only). Retrieved March 14, 2011 from