Gov. Pawlenty's Health Cabinet requested the Health Department to look at the cost of adding 383,000 people to the publicly subsidized MinnesotaCare program, and another scenario that relies on private insurance to cover the state's uninsured.
On the low end, it would cost about $663 million a year, and on the high end, more than $850 million.
As MPR reports:
Exactly why we need a fiscal framework that looks strategically at state finance.
[Health Cabinet] Chairman Cal Ludeman says the cabinet just wanted the information. He says it doesn't imply that the cabinet endorses universal coverage.
"No, no, no," he says. "We want to know what it would be, what it could potentially cost if we're going to have the debate about it. That's what it is, and that's all it is."
Ludeman points out that the debate over universal coverage has been a part of legislative discussion for years. But he says the idea has taken on more momentum lately.
"We don't do this in a vacuum. We're fully aware of proposals in this Legislature," says Ludeman. "We've watched carefully the actions in Massachusetts, have talked to people in Massachusetts both legislatively and those folks trying to implement that universal coverage program. This is just simply an assessment of the situation to understand that whole picture."
Ludeman says his first reaction to the estimates, which range from $663 million to $852 million, is that they sound big.
"Some will say, 'Boy, that's not as big a number as I thought and let's do it,'" says Ludeman. "But a lot of folks would say, 'Wait a minute, this is a new entry in a government or taxpayer sense about where we're going, and that is a lot of money.' And I think as you look at the state budget, this sort of new cost would always be viewed as a lot of money."