September 18, 2014

House budget subcommittee shuns Medicaid expansion, finds mental health money

A House budget subcommittee has rejected including federal money for Medicaid expansion in the budgets for the Departments of Mental Health, Social Services and Health and Senior Services.

Representative Sue Allen (R-Town and Country)

Representative Sue Allen (R-Town and Country)

Representative Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) proposed a return to Governor Jay Nixon’s plan to use $1 billion in federal dollars for those departments, freeing up general revenue to use in other areas. Her amendments were defeated in 9-5 partisan votes.

Nixon says if Missouri accepts Medicaid expansion the federal government will pay for it for the first three years, then Missouri will begin picking up a portion of the cost that would eventually grow to ten percent. Democrats say Medicaid expansion will save the state money, extend healthcare to an additional 300,000 Missourians, create jobs and keep rural hospitals from closing.

Chairwoman Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) says Missouri can not afford to accept that plan.

“There will be a time the feds will back off. Missouri is in as good a shape as we are financially because of hard decisions that were made in 2005 to reign in cost, and we have a natural growth of Medicaid which we struggle with every year anyway within the current eligibility.”

The state legislature approved and then-Governor Matt Blunt signed a cut back in Medicaid in 2005. At that time, 100,000 people lost eligibility.

Allen says Medicaid reform would be the more responsible route.

“I would say, first of all, we improve and we correct where you could have greater benefits. You get that taken care of and you move forward, and you do it one step at a time but you don’t jump in a swimming pool without any water in it.”

The plan approved by the committee does shift about $25 million to the Department of Mental Health. Allen says that money came from places in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget where Governor Nixon had withheld money, or where money that was appropriated was not spent.

She says in finding that $25 million, “I don’t know if any services that were cut.”

Allen says she hopes more money can be found for mental health when her committee’s proposal reaches the full budget committee.