Task force to decide future of MinnesotaCare

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,  upheld June 28 by the U.S. Supreme Court, was passed by Congress in 2010 to make health insurance more available and affordable for all Americans. Its major provisions don’t take effect, however, until 2014.

But Minnesota already has a program for those who are unable to find affordable health insurance. It’s called MinnesotaCare, a state program providing health care coverage for lower income people.

First started in 1992, MinnesotaCare was envisioned as a stepping stone for people caught in the gap between being eligible for other state health care programs and affordable private sector health insurance.

“It’s helped a lot of people,” said House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Chairman Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who tempered his assessment with criticism of the program.

But MinnesotaCare was nation-leading, Abeler said.

Last year, about 148,000 Minnesotans per month enrolled in MinnesotaCare, which cost the state, the federal government and insurance consumers about $737 million,  according to the Department of Human Services.

There are eligibility requirements.

Besides needing to meet income requirements — adults without children in two-person households cannot make more than $2,522 per month, for instance — applicants cannot be otherwise insured, including through Medicare, and in general cannot have been covered by other insurance within the last four months.

Applicants must be state residents and U.S. citizens.

Premiums are determined on a sliding-fee scale, taking into account the size of family and incomes.

The average monthly premium paid last year by clients in MinnesotaCare was $23, with some children covered for just $4 per month, according to the human services department.

Costs vary among the various MinnesotaCare programs.

In MinnesotaCare Expanded — health care for pregnant women and children under 21 — there are no copays or deductibles under program guidelines.

In MinnesotaCare Basic Plus One – health care for adults without children – there are prescription copays and certain program limitations.

For the full story, see the Thursday, July 19 print edition of the Times.