Governor Cuts Medical Care for the Poor

     ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – The “poorest of the poor” Minnesotans will be cut off from state-funded health care because Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut $16 million from the state medical assistance program, a class action claims in Ramsey County Court.

     Recipients of the General Assistance Medical Care Program (GAMC) – 60 percent of whom suffer from a “diagnosed mental illness” and 30 percent of whom have some form of “chronic physical illness” – will lose their medical care on April 1, the class claims. Ninety percent of GAMC recipients live on $226 a month or less, according to the complaint.
     The co-defendant Department of Human Services plans to “transition GAMC recipients to another state-operated medical program,” but “the proposed transition leaves so many gaps in coverage,” the class claims.
     Named plaintiff James Beede, a Vietnam Veteran, lives on $203 per month. He says that if he loses GAMC on April 1, “his ability to pay for dental and other medical needs would be at risk.”
     Gov. Pawlenty cut more than $381 million from GAMC from the 2001 budget, allowing $345 million to remain for the 2010 program. He then “announced that he would unallot a portion of the appropriation that he had just signed into law,” rather than veto the items, to try to make an end run around the Legislature’s power to override his vetoes, the class claims.
     Facing a budget deficit in June 2009, Department of Management and Budget Commissioner Thomas Hanson “proposed a series of spending reductions, including a $236 million reduction in human services spending,” according to the complaint. Pawlenty then “unalloted” $15.9 million from the GAMC program.
     “Although more than $26 million explicitly appropriated by the Legislature for GAMC in 2010 will remain at the end of March, Commissioner Hanson’s February 2010 financial report states that this money will be used for a different purpose,” the complaint states.
     The class says the “unallotment” is illegal, and that the $42 million in total funding – should the $16 million be restored – is “more than enough to continue the program through the month of April.”
     The class seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction. It claims Pawlenty violated the separation of powers doctrine of the Minnesota Constitution, and state budget law.
     It lead counsel is Michael Fargione with Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance of Minneapolis.

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