GAMC Lives Another Month

Low-income Minnesotans who depend on a state program for health care won a one-month extension this morning.

General Assistance Medical Care will remain in operation a month longer than expected, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman announced. The new date for the program to end is April 1.

“This extra month of GAMC coverage is possible because program costs and new enrollment were lower than projected,” Pawlenty said. “The extension means that people can remain on GAMC through March and then will automatically be transitioned to MinnesotaCare.”

Pawlenty’s summer action to eliminate GAMC, in the name of balancing the state budget, has been controversial. Democrats who control the Legislature said they hope to pass legislation soon after the 2010 session begins on Feb. 4 to reinstate it. Today’s Pawlenty action at least gives them longer to negotiate a way to keep the program going.

Part of the controversy is forcing GAMC recipients, who get health care free, to become part of the MinnesotaCare program, a state-subsidized insurance program that requires people to pay modest premiums.

GAMC provides health care coverage for adults without children with incomes up to $677 a month. Pawlenty administration officials say nearly all of them also are eligible for MinnesotaCare, which serves people earning up to $2,257 a month.

The delay announced today, Ludeman said, is the only difference 28,000 GAMC recipients will experience. He said those recipients will not need to take action, but will automatically be switched to MinnesotaCare.

“Transitioning people on GAMC to MinnesotaCare maintains health care coverage for enrollees,” Ludeman said. “We continue to work with counties, providers, community agencies and faith-based organizations to help enrollees through the transition.”

Ludeman also said that counties will pay MinnesotaCare premiums for the newly enrollees for up to six months. That is when enrollees will need to pay premiums, which he said average $5 a month.