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Health care options to benefit rural hospitals

Legislation passed last session gives Governor-elect Mark Dayton the opportunity to apply for approximately $1.2 billion that will benefit struggling hospitals, help them provide better health care and create jobs in Minnesota. The incoming Governor vowed this week to apply for the expanded Medicaid program funds.

"I'm pleased that Governor-elect Dayton has the best interests of Minnesota in mind in promising to apply for the funds that will not only help hospitals, but also save the state money and help create much-needed jobs," said Sen. Keith Langseth (DFL-Glyndon).

By participating in the early enrollment plan, the state can preserve the MinnesotaCare program for parents, children and the working poor, pay a higher percent of the costs to hospitals providing care for our poorest population, and reduce the state's financial obligation in providing these programs.

"This helps us get a better return on our investments," Langseth noted. "It means thousands of Minnesotans will have early treatment rather than be forced to use more expensive emergency room services for care."

Those unreimbursed emergency room costs are general paid for through local property taxes and higher insurance premium rates.

Reports estimate that the average family pays a hidden tax of $1,017 annually to cover the costs of the uninsured. The early Medicaid enrollment option will provide the funding necessary to drive market-wide payment reform.

"This is the best way to reduce future health care costs," Langseth said. "Early enrollment will also boost our economy."

The Families USA Foundation estimates that the additional funding through early enrollment will create 22,000 jobs statewide, generate $2.7 billion in business activity and produce $984 million in salaries and wages in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, Langseth noted, area hospitals will receive about 15 percent less in additional funding because Governor Pawlenty refused to apply for the funds.

St. Francis Medical Center in Breckenridge and Wheaton Community Hospital will both receive $37,583 under the early enrollment option. St. Mary's Regional Health Care Center in Detroit Lakes will receive $1.65 million.

"This is a definite win-win for Minnesota," Langseth said.