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Medicaid transition starts soon in county

Daryl Bessler is the Hubbard County Social Services Director

Transition of many low-income Hubbard County residents into the new state Medicaid program begins in 10 days as Minnesota's General Assistance Medical Care program ends.

The announcement by Hubbard County Social Services Director Daryl Bessler coincided with a similar announcement by Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday indicating Minnesota had received federal approval to expand its Medical Assistance program.

Essentially, more low- income residents will qualify for medical benefits at a lower cost to the state.

"Additionally this will save or create 20,000 jobs in our state's health care related industries," Dayton said in a news release. An estimated 95,000 Minnesotans will be eligible under the new criteria.

The expansion will enroll 83,000 Minnesotans from two state-funded programs, GAMC and MinnesotaCare, into the Medical Assistance program, which has more benefits and lower co-pays.

Another 12,000 uninsured persons with incomes at or below 75 percent of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible to enroll, Dayton's office said.

GAMC and MnCare recipients will be automatically enrolled March 1. Bessler estimates this could be 125-175 people, but said that's just a guess.

Bessler told the county board Wednesday he's not sure how the transition will be accomplished.

"People then in the future will make application and if they're eligible they will move into the Medicaid program and the Medicaid program will be more liberal than it has in the past," Bessler said. "It's going to bring people into it whose incomes are such that ... if a certain percentage of the federal poverty guidelines (are met), they will be eligible."

And Bessler believes more Hubbard County residents could enroll as a result.

"As people lose their jobs and incomes are going to be more stabilized or go down as time goes on here," more residents could qualify for the benefits, he said.

"Our wage rates and compensation levels in this county compared to statewide, mean or median, is considerably less," he said of the county's poor. "So that means more people in that lower income (tier) and more people eligible. It's just a matter of mathematics, really."

But while Hubbard County has a significant population that meets federal poverty guidelines, Bessler said the county is not as bad off as some of its neighbors.

"The economic base in this county has been better, I mean we have a manufacturing base, we have the retail base we have a reasonably well diversified economic base in this county and it helps," he said.

But the larger picture is that the expanded coverage for low-income residents will mean that some who have gone without basic health care because of the cost may now be persuaded to seek out doctors and participate in wellness programs,

Dayton signed an executive order Jan. 5 enrolling the state in the program. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty declined the early enrollment offer.

On Tuesday, the Department of Human Services began mailing out notices to enrollees that are currently in the MinnesotaCare program. GAMC enrollees will be notified beginning Feb. 24.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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