October 23, 2014

Senate leader wants tort reform with Medicaid legislation

The Majority Leader in the Senate says he doesn’t think legislation that expands Medicaid will get anywhere in his chamber in 2014. Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says if it does, he wants tort reform with it.

Senator Ron Richard

Senator Ron Richard

Richard tells Missourinet, “I don’t think there’s a lot of support for Medicaid expansion. At least, there’s nobody in the Senate calling me that we want to expand Medicaid. All I’m hearing is that if we get Medicaid expansion from the House they’re going to slow it down.” Richard continues, “I don’t know if there’s room for a compromise on this or not. All I’m saying … if there is a compromise I would like to see tort reform be a part of it.”

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) is the Chairman of the House Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation. He just presented to that Committee his proposal for Medicaid reform that attempts to save the state money over the life of Medicaid expansion. He says tort reform faces its own challenges.

“There’s a problem with the constitutionality of some of the measures that have been proposed thus far,” Barnes says. He notes the Supreme Court last year threw out a 2005 tort reform law. “That ruling is still there, so that’s an obvious issue that supporters need to figure out.”

The legislature overturned Governor Jay Nixon’s vetoes of three pieces of tort legislation in September’s veto session.

Richard says he hasn’t started developing an approach to tort reform legislation for 2014. “The fact that the Supreme Court took off the limits and we almost had the same limits as Kansas and the Supreme Court upheld it, that’s putting outstate Missouri at a disadvantage,” says Richard. “We’ve got medical facilities being built right across the borders and putting hospitals at a disadvantage in Missouri.”

He says he isn’t only looking at medical issues. “Doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones that need some relief from frivolous lawsuits.”

The Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation and Reform will meet Wednesday. Barnes’ House Committee meets again November 19. Both committees have been asked to meet in a joint session with Governor Nixon November 26.