Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at historic lows, but the number of people using public health insurance for the poor is still at historic highs.
The state’s unemployment rate is 2.8 percent, but Medicaid enrollment is at 1.1 million, The Star Tribune reported . Minnesota had a 5 percent unemployment rate in 2013, but only 740,000 people on Medicaid.
Enrollment may be growing because Minnesota expanded Medicaid to single adults and to higher income levels under the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Single adults must earn less than $16,146 a year. A family of four is eligible if the combined income is less than $33,383, though a family of four making less than $69,000 can enroll children for health coverage.
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The economy remains stubborn in terms of wage growth and employer health benefits, leaving many employees eligible for state health insurance, experts said.
“If history is any guide, we certainly should be seeing more rapid wage growth than we have been,” said Steve Hine, a labor economist at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “There is still this segment of our population that is not necessarily benefiting by the strong employment situation.”
Some of Minnesota’s fastest growing economic sectors are hospitality and retail, which tend to have many lower wage, part-time jobs that don’t have health insurance benefits.
Just over half of employers offered health coverage in 2017, according to a Minnesota Department of Health survey. In comparison, about 68 percent of all jobs in 2001 had health benefits.
“Do I think large employers should provide access to quality health care and benefits to their employees? Absolutely,” said Emily Piper, Minnesota health services commissioner. “Does it always happen? No. Should it happen more? Yes.”
Medicaid will account for $11 billion of Minnesota’s current biennial budget. Medicaid growth will slow in 2019, but enrollment won’t start shrinking in the next five years, according to Minnesota’s latest budget forecast.