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Minnesota to Extend Health Coverage to 16,000 Children

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota is eliminating MinnesotaCare health insurance premiums for poor children as the state implements a 2009 law aimed at covering 16,000 uninsured children.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Thissen announced the change and others designed to increase children’s coverage at a Capitol news conference Thursday, soon after Minnesota slid in a national ranking of children’s well-being and health care coverage. A federal waiver allowed the state to move forward with the expanded children’s coverage starting this month.

A family of four making $46,000 or less will no longer pay monthly MinnesotaCare premiums ranging from $4 to $70 per child, depending on the family’s income.

The state is also eliminating a 4-month waiting period for children below that income level and allowing parents to enroll their children in MinnesotaCare even if they don’t sign up for health insurance coverage available through their job.

The changes come as Minnesota grapples with more than 70,000 uninsured children as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton moves forward with the federal health care law.

Thissen, who sponsored the original legislation, said the MinnesotaCare adjustments will provide an option for families until the federal law is fully implemented in 2019. The state law is not part of the federal overhaul. Jesson said the expanded coverage will cost $11 million a year when fully implemented, with the federal government paying half. The state’s share is already part of expected expenses.

A national ranking of child well-being released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed Minnesota dropping to No. 5 from No. 2 in the previous report.