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GAMC, unemployment benefits deserve support

Politicians have chosen curiously in the past few days what they will stand up against. Apparently, it's medicine and treatment for poor people and benefits for the unemployed.

While it's refreshing to see politicians take a stand at all nowadays, they chose poorly when it came to GAMC funding at the state legislature and a 30-day extension of benefits at the federal level.

Let's begin by understanding what General Assistance Medical Care is. It provides reimbursement to hospitals for treating people who are working poor or unemployed (making less than $7,000 per year), don't have MinnesotaCare, and can't pay their bill, but are in need of medical attention. It could be someone without many resources who breaks his leg, a woman suffering from schizophrenia paying for her medicine, or emergency care of someone in a car crash who can't pay. It's the very bottom of the safety net. It's this or the hospital is just stuck with the bill.

Hospitals like Tri-County. In fact, Tri-County could lose $1 million in funding if the program, which is currently a political football, isn't somehow reworked or reinstated. If nothing is done, our hospital will end up eating that cost. Or, as we all know, we will.

Gov. Pawlenty, in an unenviable job of having to balance the state budget, eliminated the program through unallotment. The House and Senate voted to fund it, but Pawlenty vetoed and all Republicans -- even those who supported passage the first time -- voted with him and the override was narrowly defeated.

Our state government needs to get its act together and fund this program, period. If they don't, they're taking the last hope away from people who already have little. They're taking vital medication out of patients' mouths. We don't want to deal with the consequences when desperate people are suddenly in danger.

Another curious "principled stand" was when Sen. Jim Bunning held up the U.S. Senate single-handedly to stop a bill extending jobless benefits for 30 days. While Bunning was preaching a message of fiscal responsibility -- which is admittedly sorely needed -- this was the wrong time to take a stand. Where was Bunning, or the other 99 senators, when $700 billion was given to bail out the banks? Where were the principled stands to get sensible health care reform? To get better veterans' benefits? To fix Medicare and Social Security? To close Guantanamo Bay? To stop the government from raising the debt ceiling? To put more money into investigating Medicare fraud?

Really, Sen. Bunning? Keeping a desperately needed check away from a jobless person who needs it is the fight you chose? And then you had the gall to whine about having to miss a basketball game because you were holding up a bill the Senate eventually passed 78-19?

It seems if Wall Street needs money, we can't print it fast enough. If poor people need it, it's needless government giveaways. This is what we've come to?

This editorial represents the collective voice of the Pioneer Journal's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.