House Republicans released details Thursday of their spending plan for health and human services programs, which as expected would terminate MinnesotaCare, a public health insurance program that provides coverage for some 90,000 people.
The GOP majority has targeted health and assistance programs for some of the steepest spending cuts over the next two years, as they seek to free up resources for their proposed $2 billion in tax cuts.
But their plans face a united front in Gov. Mark Dayton and the Senate's DFL majority, where support for MinnesotaCare is deep, and opposition is strong to public assistance cuts in the face of a nearly $2 billion budget surplus.
The GOP plan does make a priority of several spending areas, including $138 million in increased state reimbursements for nursing homes. It also changes the way those dollars are distributed, which the plan's sponsors said would increase the flow of such dollars to nursing homes in outstate Minnesota.
The legislation provides a one-time five-percent cost-of-living adjustment for home and community-based care worker. It includes more funding aimed at increasing the number of state psychiatric beds.
"This bill will continue providing critical services to those who need it most, and works to bend the cost curve to ensure health care costs don't grow exponentially faster than the budgets of the families who fund it," said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Reform Committee.
Democrats, including Dayton, blasted the proposal as outrageous in a time of budget surplus. "It's not serious budgeting, it's the wrong priorities for Minnesota's future, and it shows the Republicans are not ready to govern," said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
Republicans proposed to replace MinnesotaCare with an approach they are calling "Minnesota Care II," which would require MinnesotaCare enrollees to purchase insurance on MNsure, the state's health insurance exchange. Republicans have said they would provide some sort of subsidy for that, but have not yet detailed that plan.
The full GOP health and human services budget proposal can be found here.