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St. Paul, Minn. — The health and human services bill includes funding for nursing homes, hospitals, child care, welfare and group homes for the developmentally disabled. The bill does not eliminate a state health care program for low-income adults without children, as Republicans had proposed. Instead, it reduces eligibility for state health care programs, increases co-pays and caps benefits for some low-income adults.
The lead Senate negotiator -- DFLer Linda Berglin of Minneapolis -- says the bill will make it difficult for many Minnesotans to get health care.
"I'm proud to say that I was able to save a lot of eligibility. But the structure of the programs themselves is still not very good. When you've got somebody that's got an income of $5,000 a year, and you're going to make them pay all these co-pays to get their health care, they're not going to be able to afford to do it," she said.
Kids don't vote, and as a result, they're not going to be able to influence the process. I mean, we love seniors, but if you look at the proportional cuts compared to some of the senior programs, you saw where raw political power came to play.
Berglin had predicted as many as 68,000 Minnesotans will lose health coverage under Republican budget proposals. She says the number will now be significantly smaller, although she doesn't have a revised estimate.
The lead House negotiator on the bill -- Republican Fran Bradley of Rochester -- says the House made major concessions to the Senate on health care eligibility. Bradley says some Republicans will believe the bill spends too much.
"We certainly stretched ourselves, found every penny that we could legitimately and spent that where it should be. I hope that in the balance, even the most conservative people in our caucus will say, 'yeah, we spent more maybe than I'd like but we got other things instead,'" Bradley said.
Bradley says the bill does not cut reimbursements for nursing homes or home health care. He says the bill does cut reimbursements for group homes for the developmentally disabled by one percent, and cuts hospital funding by five percent. The bill also reduces eligibility and increases co-pays for subsidized child care.
Minh Ta of the Children's Defense Fund says some low-income families will lose child care assistance and health insurance.
"Kids don't vote, and as a result, they're not going to be able to influence the process. I mean, we love seniors, but if you look at the proportional cuts compared to some of the senior programs, you saw where raw political power came to play," Ta said.
Ta says nearly 1,200 families will lose child care assistance immediately. Rep. Bradley says the bill reduces child care eligibility from 300 percent of the federal poverty level to 250 percent, which is about $50,000 for a family of four.
"If you look at any other states around us, we're still far in excess of any of those. We actually moved significantly on some of the child care reductions, reforms that I think were reasonable reforms, and moved more toward the Senate version and we still retain enough for me to feel good," he said.
Sen. Berglin says the bill will cut grants to more than half of the families on welfare. She says the state's welfare program -- the Minnesota Family Investment Program -- should be renamed the More Families in Poverty Program.
Berglin wanted to raise the state's cigarette tax to pay for health and human services. Now the bill stays within the global no-tax-increase deal. It relies on some additional federal money coming to Minnesota from the tax cut bill signed into law by President Bush.