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GAMC compromise hurts Wadena

The Minnesota House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a "compromise" General Assistance Medical Care bill that reduces the program by two thirds and sets up a new bureaucracy that will unfairly distribute the remaining one third. This is bad news for the Wadena area, and it's especially sad because another, better, more efficient plan that's a better deal for Minnesota is out there. And it looks like we're going to pass on it.

Let's remember that GAMC covers the poorest of the poor -- those who have no means to pay for treatment. GAMC reimbursed hospitals for showing mercy and helping those in need. Now they'll be punished.

The compromise bill will allocate the lion's share of the money to new Care Coordinated Delivery Systems, basically organizations willing to take on risk and manage care in their regions. For everyone else -- and Wadena is likely to fall into the "everyone else" -- there will be a much smaller pot of money. An estimate shows health care providers like Tri-County will get about 10 cents on the dollar, or about $100,000 annually compared to the $1 million in reimbursements that used to come from the state.

Certainly the hospitals knew they'd be getting less. But this is harsh.

Especially when there's a much better plan. The recently passed federal health care overhaul bill would give Minnesota $400 million in matching funds to extend Medicaid to the former GAMC (and possibly some MinnesotaCare) patients. But Minnesota would have to pony up $380 million instead of the $297 million contained in this bill. It seems foolish to refuse to spend $83 million in order to get $400 million for our citizens and rural hospitals, especially since we've been spending $900 million a year on GAMC up until now.

Why in the world would we do it this way? Sounds like a great question to ask at a town hall meeting.

Since a better option has come to light, we urge Gov. Pawlenty to veto the bill, and ask the Legislature to extend GAMC as-is for another month to take time to study the issue.

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