Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday announced that the timeline for implementing the state’s early Medical Assistance expansion will be much shorter than previously thought and should largely be in place by March 1.
Department of Human Services officials under former Gov. Tim Pawlenty had previously said the expansion would take 10 months to implement, an estimation that drew the ire of many DFLers who said it should be able to be completed much more quickly. Some had insinuated that the outgoing Pawlenty administration was purposefully dragging its feet as well.
Dayton credited DHS officials and state employees with the new, truncated timeline for the expansion.
“This shows what happens when you have a dedicated commissioner,” Dayton said at a Capitol news conference announcing the new timeline. “The change is Commissioner [Lucinda] Jesson took office.”
The expansion is expected to place nearly 100,000 Minnesotans in the Medical Assistance program, which is the state’s version of the state-federal Medicaid program.
The change will give those new enrollees better benefits and boost the reimbursement rates health care providers are paid for providing services. Minnesota Hospital Association Chair Mary Klimp, who was invited to the news conference, said her organization supports the move as well.
Despite Dayton’s executive order implementing the expansion and the new expedited timeline for completion, Republicans in the Legislature have still sought to make their voices heard on the measure so far this session. Some have questioned the legality of the expansion order, and Sen. David Hann, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has introduced a bill that would repeal the expansion. That bill has yet to receive a hearing, although it’s been referred to Hann’s own committee.
Dayton said Thursday that he would veto any bill that tries to prevent or block the expansion, and that its implementation would not cost the state any additional dollars beyond what the Legislature and Pawlenty has previously appropriated.