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Minnesota House approves Medicaid expansion

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — More than 35,000 low-income Minnesota residents moved closer Monday to becoming eligible for a subsidized health insurance program, part of a state buy-in to the controversial new federal health care law.

The Democratic-led state House voted 71-56 to approve an expansion of the state's Medical Assistance program and take advantage of a federal promise to send billions to cover the full cost of the new enrollees for a few years. The proposed change to the Minnesota version of Medicaid now heads to a Democratic-controlled Senate, which could act on it later this week. Gov. Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, said he supports the bill.

Unlike states under GOP rule, Minnesota's government has lined up behind President Barack Obama's signature health law. It is also developing a state-based health insurance exchange that will allow people to comparison shop for their insurance, particularly if they don't get it through an employer.

But even in states with Republican governors, some are endorsing the Medicaid expansion as a way to ease budget pressures while getting health coverage for more of their residents.

The broadened access to Medical Assistance comes by adjusting income limits for the program. Under the bill, people with incomes slightly above the federal poverty guidelines would qualify for coverage. For a childless adult, that means moving the income cutoff limit to about $15,300 a year instead of the present $11,500 earnings limit.

Medical Assistance now serves more than 733,000 people in the state.

Some people now enrolled in the premium-based MinnesotaCare program for the working poor would be shifted into Medical Assistance, which doesn't require participants to pay. MinnesotaCare has more restrictions on what gets reimbursed — annual hospital costs are capped at $10,000, for instance — that make it less attractive for providers to serve those patients.

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