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The expansion was something Dayton said would be among his first official acts as governor. Republicans criticized the move as constitutionally questionable.

Dayton signs MA expansion

Gov. Mark Dayton

Gov. Mark Dayton

Fulfilling a key campaign promise, Gov. Mark Dayton today signed an executive order opting-in to the federal health reform law’s early Medical Assistance expansion, a move that will effectively end the state’s GAMC program and enroll more than 90,000 Minnesotans into the state-federal Medicaid program.

Dayton held a signing ceremony in the governor’s reception room that was packed with DFL lawmakers and the public who were loudly supporting and protesting the expansion. Throughout the ceremony, Dayton allowed supporters and opponents to speak from the podium, a move Capitol observers said they’ve never seen before.

During the signing, Dayton stressed that the authority to sign the order was the result of a bipartisan compromise between the previous Legislature and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He also said the expansion would provide millions more in medical care reimbursement dollars to the state’s providers, and that the net effect on the state’s budget would be negligible.

Republican senators, immediately following the signing, blasted the move as constitutionally questionable and bad for the state’s health care system and budget.

Sen. David Hann, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he was disappointed the executive order would continue Minnesota “further down the path of government-run health care.” Looking forward, Hann said his committee will weigh the health policy implications of the expansion and look for ways to find savings and improve the states’s health care.

Sen. Warren Limmer, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there were “serious constitutional issues” with the way the previous Legislature and Pawlenty came to the agreement that allowed the opt-in in the first place. He added some are weighing a legal challenge of the expansion, but that no GOP lawmakers are planning to take the issue court.

Reps. Erin Murphy and Tom Huntley, two DFLers who have worked closely on health care issues, dismissed the constitutional questions and said the expansion would save the state money and help ease the burden of covering the uninsured and underinsured felt by hospitals.

“The bill was signed by Gov. Pawlenty on advice from his lawyers, I presume,” Huntley said. ” If he thought it was unconstitutional, why would he sign it?”

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