Some hospitals pay insurance premiums for poor patients

Minnesota's General Assistance Medical Care program was dramatically pared down earlier this year due to budget constraints, with block grants provided to hospitals to provide care, reports Minnesota Daily. The move has prompted some rural hospitals to pay the GAMC premiums for poor patients to enroll in MinnesotaCare, a barebones insurance program.

One such facility is Tri-County Hospital in Wadena. It's begun paying about $1,000 a month to cover the premiums of 100 local residents for their MinnesotaCare enrollment, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

"For us, it was a very easy cost-benefit decision," Tri-County CEO Joel Beiswenger told MPR. "We'll pay $1,000 a month to maintain several thousand dollars a month in potential reimbursements, on the folks that we were going to care for anyway."

Beiswenger estimated that Tri-County would lose an estimated $850,000 a year providing care for those patients no longer enrolled in GAMC. He believes those losses would be cut in half by paying for their MinnesotaCare coverage.

About a half-dozen mostly rural hospitals throughout the state are following suit, with others studying the feasibility. Although MinnesotaCare premiums are as low as $4 a month, those eligible earn so little that many still have trouble paying.

There is one major downside: MinnesotaCare is capped at $10,000 worth of coverage a year, raising concerns that the program is not a good fit for potential enrollees who have chronic illnesses.

For more:
- here's the Minnesota Public Radio article
- read the Minnesota Daily article