Dayton to scrap Pawlenty health order

1:55 PM, Jan 5, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn.  --  Gov. Mark Dayton will sign an order Wednesday that reverses his Republican predecessor's policy barring state agencies from seeking certain discretionary federal health grants, a Capitol official said Tuesday.

The official familiar with the Democrat's decision told The Associated Press that Dayton would scrap an August executive order by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Pawlenty clamped down on grant applications as a way to protest President Barack Obama's signature health law. By state law, his order would have remained in place for three months after leaving office. Dayton's new directive will scrap the old one sooner.

A second, widely publicized order Dayton plans to sign Wednesday would make Minnesota eligible for federal Medicaid money to expand a program for low-income adults. In an AP interview last week, Dayton hinted he would go further than that, saying he hoped to allow "other requests for health care funding that Gov. Pawlenty nixed."

Pawlenty has been vocal in his opposition to Obama-led health overhaul. The now-former governor has said he would make repealing it a focal point of a run for president in 2012 if he wages a campaign. In August, Pawlenty declared that state agencies wouldn't apply for "grant programs and demonstration projects deriving from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" unless they were deemed mandatory or the department had his explicit permission.

In his order, Pawlenty slammed the law as a "massive new spending commitment" and "a dramatic attempt to assert federal command and control over this country's health care system."

Pawlenty's directive caused the state to snub a $1 million grant to plan for a health insurance exchange, despite a state law that required the state to seek "one or more planning grants" for such a marketplace. Pawlenty's top social services adviser said in September that there were more than 100 grants connected to the federal health care initiative that were put in limbo by the governor's step.

At the time, Democrats accused Pawlenty of attempting to score political points at the expense of state health programs and those who depend on them.

Dayton's order on Medicaid, which would pay for more generous coverage for poor adults who aren't parents, could unlock more than $1 billion in federal matching money. But the state also needs to put up extra cash.

State Medicaid director Brian Osberg told a legislative panel last month that the state Human Services Department and counties would need nine months to design the expansion, convert computer systems, train staff and implement the program. He said state health care providers would not be eligible for an infusion of federal cash until the program is up and running.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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