Minnesota Clinics Serving Many More Thanks To Stimulus Dollars

As Minnesota braces for some cuts to public health programs, the state's network of community health centers is being buoyed by money from the federal stimulus that will expand coverage to the un- and underinsured in that state, The MinnPost reports.

"Federal funding for community health centers has drawn bipartisan support in recent years in an effort to provide primary care for the uninsured in clinics instead of hospital emergency rooms, where costs run much higher — especially for those patients who have delayed treatment. In Minnesota, federally supported centers are proud of their track records in prevention, with higher vaccination rates and lower infant mortality rates among patients, for example, than the general population."

"An ominous cloud for community health clinics and other providers in Minnesota is $1.1 billion in cuts to state health programs over the next biennium. Some of the cuts went into effect July 1, but many on the front lines say it's too early to determine the extent of the impact and how far federal programs and shrinking private donations will go to fill the gap. Pain is expected, though not as much pain as originally feared."

The article continues: "On the one hand, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $236 million in human services unallotments and his line-item veto of $381 million for the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program are certainly worrisome on top of a $490 million reduction approved by the Legislature, observers say. Elimination of the GAMC program, which serves about 30,000 childless adults making up to 75 percent of federal poverty guidelines, is set for March 2010, which gives the Legislature a few weeks in the next session to try to resurrect the funding."

MinnesotaCare, the state public insurance program for low-income residents was expanded this year, however, The MinnPost reports. "In Minnesota, the ranks of the uninsured seen at community health clinics have been increasing 10 percent annually since the 1990s, says Watson. These centers collectively serve 180,000 patients per year — 38 percent of them uninsured, 43 percent in public insurance programs like Medical Assistance/Medicaid and MinnesotaCare, and 6 percent on Medicare (for age 65-plus)."

One Minnesota center — the Community-University Health Care Center in Minneapolis — is expecting to go from serving 8,300 in 2001 to 13,000 in 2009 because of the recession (Selix, 7/6).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.