Pharmacy student Abigail Stoddard wins a Spotty (tm) for an op-ed in the Star Tribune which ran with the hed Pawlenty's cruelest cut: Health care. Here’s the lede from the piece:
Turn your head and cough it up.
That's the message to poor Minnesotans from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who wants to solve a budget shortfall with the help of some of our neediest citizens.
With just weeks left in the legislative session, the governor and DFL leaders are deadlocked over spending cuts and revenue-raising sources that would balance the budget. A health care cut for the poor would be the unkindest cut of all.
As many as 84,000 previously covered Minnesotans will become ineligible for MinnesotaCare, a critical state-funded health insurance program, under Pawlenty's plan.
The 84,000 is the sum of two major cuts. The first would eliminate eligibility for adults without children by 2010 -- 55,000 Minnesotans. The second would eliminate eligibility for adults with children by 2011 -- 29,000 Minnesotans.
The whole thing is a good read, and it includes a description of some of the people who rely on MinnesotaCare.
Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty (tm) is awarded to the author of an op-ed, letter to the editor, or blog post or comment that Spot wishes he had written himself. In fact, Abigail’s article inspired Spot to do a little more reading, and here’s some of what he found.
Update: The Minnesota Health Care Access Fund is about the only thing in state government that is in the black. That’s why, of course, there is money to raid!
The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition’s estimate of the devastation (contained in an email message to supporters) from Pawlenty’s budget is even greater than Abigail’s figures:
The governor’s budget has devastating cuts to health and human services which would, among other things, kick over 113,000 people off Minnesota Care. While the mission of our organization is to enact the Minnesota Health Plan—a sustainable, cost-effective and equitable solution to the health care crisis—we can’t stand by while thousands lose their current coverage.
The cuts to MinnesotaCare would be necessary under Pawlenty’s plan because he wants to divert substantial funds from the Minnesota Health Care Access Fund to help plug the budget hole. There is already a grand tradition of doing this:
Nearly every year he's been in the governor's office, Pawlenty has sought to raid the surpluses in the Health Care Access Fund to pay for general fund programs, successfully diverting more than $400 million in HCAF that way during his first term, and borrowing $50 million more for health care reform during the last session. But the fund was created in 1992 specifically to underwrite MinnesotaCare, a program designed mainly to insure working families whose employers don't provide coverage. The source of this dedicated funding is a 1 or 2 percent tax on health providers and health plans, and a sliding scale premium on MnCare enrollees.
The governor is looking for a cool quarter of a billion from the fund this biennium. But not only that (from the same PIM link):
In light of this session's historic budget deficit, Pawlenty saw an opportunity to eliminate the freestanding HCAF altogether by folding its revenues into the general fund. That's a pretty slick trick: Not only does the governor want to cut state payments to health providers by 3 percent, he wants to take the 2 percent tax they are paying to make sure middle class workers have insurance and use it to fulfill the state's legal obligation to insure the poor and disabled through Medicaid.
Finally, here’s a picture of the governor receiving a citation for his budget chicanery:
Come on, Spot, you know that’s the governor posing with his Day of Prayer proclamation after meeting held with a group of evangelical preachers.
So it is, grasshopper. Blessed are the charlatans, Spot says.