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Groups hold protests against GAMC cuts

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Several progressive groups held protests across Minnesota this Tuesday morning to protest Gov. Pawlenty's line-item veto of a health care program for the poor.

Earlier this year, Pawlenty cut funding for General Assistance Medical Care, which serves people who earn less than $8,000 a year. The Department of Human Services hopes to enroll those people into a separate health care program, but advocates say merging the program won't help the poor. 

DFL Rep. Paul Thissen attended a protest outside of the governor's mansion in St. Paul. Thissen, who is running for governor, said he's hopeful lawmakers will find a way to save the program.

"The problem with the governor's solution is that it's short-term. It's not a long-term fix," Thissen said. "And we need above all, especially for this population, to provide stability and a long-term solution. I think we are going to get there. I'm optimistic about that."

Greta Bergstrom with the progressive group, Take Action Minnesota, said people on GAMC who earn less than $8,000 a year have different needs than those enrolled in MinnesotaCare.

"This is a population that is largely indigent," Bergstrom said. "It is single males predominantly without dependents that are in need of medical care. Those from the African-American and Native-American populations and MinnCare was not set up to deal with this population."

Democrats have proposed a 16 month extension for the program by creating a Medicaid surcharge on hospitals and HMOs. Gov. Pawlenty has raised concerns about that plan.