July 9, 2014

Nixon discusses joint session with House, Senate Medicaid committees

Governor Jay Nixon says he thinks it is important he sit down with the House and Senate interim committees on Medicaid before the filing of legislation begins in two weeks.

Nixon extended the invitation to the members of those committees to hold a joint session with him November 26.

He tells Missourinet, “I just thought it was important to put both those committees together in an open way so we could sit down, share ideas and see if there is a path forward that can expend taxpayer dollars efficiently but also improve health care opportunities for working Missourians.”

Nixon says he isn’t calling lawmakers in to dictate to them what he will and won’t support on the issues of Medicaid expansion or reform.

“I’m not calling them in to make a speech to them. I’ll have a few things to say but I think the most important part will be a public give-and-take that will allow us to find areas where we can find agreement so┬áthat we can move forward instead of being paralyzed by the politics of the past.”

Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington) is the chairman of the Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Reform and Transformation. He says his committee began its work with the Governor and he looks forward to the session on the 26.

“We’re going to have to work together as we go forward with any recommendations to the legislative body this next year,” Romine says. “We’ve got to have the whole team working together on this. This is a big issue, it’s costing the state a lot of money. It’s $9 billion dollars of our budget and we’ve got to be as effective with it as we possibly can as a legislative body working with the Governor.”

Republicans on the Senate Committee voted to reject putting mention of Medicaid expansion in its report. Nixon says that means the report will leave out much of the testimony the committee received.

“Generally I’ve thought of interim committees as receiving testimony and then taking that information from the various folks they’ve received testimony from and using it to formulate policy. It’s unfortunate that most of that testimony isn’t reflected in that report.”

The House Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation will hold what is expected to be its final hearing tomorrow. At its last hearing its chairman, Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), outlined a plan for saving money on expansion, in part, by reducing coverage for children in low- to middle-income families. Barnes says those families can get subsidized health insurance plans through the federal healthcare exchange.

Many Democrats and even Republicans expressed misgivings about the idea but Senator Paul LeVota (D-Kansas City) won’t reject it outright.

“We don’t want kids to be cut. That is not an option for us,” says LeVota. “With that said, how does the new expansion affect that? Are more families covered and are there other ways to cover these kids?”