The Speaker of the Minnesota House says her chamber could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill to restore funding for a health insurance program for the poor.
DFL legislative leaders reached an agreement with Gov. Pawlenty on the General Assistance Medical Care program, but several House members wanted to wait to determine the impact of the new federal health insurance law on the state budget.
Pawlenty urged the House to pass the bill so there isn't a gap in coverage for 30,000 low-income Minnesotans. DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said they'll pass the bill this week and continue to negotiate on the best way to switch the patients to a federal program.
"It's more the coverage than anything else so those Minnesotans would be able to have service," Kelliher said. "I think a lot of providers and providers all around the state, doctors, nurses, hospitals, would prefer to the Medical Assistance plan to the GAMC plan."
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor's top concern is the long-term cost of the program to the state.
"We'll be looking at that closely, but the fact that that this could add $881 million in costs to the next budget where we already face a deficit challenge is concerning to us," McClung said.
Democrats say federal funding will help the state's budget in the short-term, and they have ideas about how to control the long-term costs.
If the House passes the GAMC bill, it will head straight to Pawlenty's desk, since the Senate passed the measure last week.