April 24, 2014

House advances bill to restrict e-cigarettes to adults

The state House has given initial approval to restricting the sales of electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. The bill (HB 1690) would add alternative nicotine products to the list of those restricted for those under 18. It also defines those products and prevents them from being taxed or regulated as tobacco products.

Representative Caleb Rowden (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Caleb Rowden (courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The sponsor, Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) says the language was written with the goal of being acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats.

“As the industry evolves and as we begin to know more if we get to the point where we say, ‘Okay, we need to tax these at the same rate, at the same level that we’re taxing tobacco products, then that’s something that we could very well do in future years,” says Rowden, “but for simplicity and for making sure that we could get this across the finish line and make sure that at the end of the day that folks 18 and under do not have access to these products, to make sure that was something we could get done, that’s part of the reason we decided to go this route.”

Representative Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) says the legislation shuts the door to regulation.

“Why we would want to start now by saying we will have no regulations around this as it relates to tobacco products makes no sense to me,” says Schupp. If our goal here today is truly to stop young people from accessing these E-cigarettes as we learn more about what their effects will be, we can do that without this [language] in the bill.”

With another favorable vote the legislation would go to the Senate.

Med-mal damage caps stall (AUDIO)

An effort to limit the amount of money victims of medical malpractice can get for pain and suffering  is tied up in the state Senate because of a big difference of opinion about money.

Missouri had limits for several years until the state Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional.     The effort to reinstitute them starts with a $350,000 limit.  But some Senators want  to let victims sue for as much as one-million dollars.

St. Joseph Senator Rob Schaaf, a medical doctor, says a million dollar cap would make malpractice insurance so unaffordable that many doctors will leave Missouri.

                                  AUDIO: Schaaf :27

He favors the 350-thousand dollar limit on noneconomic damages, which he says will leave doctors’ insurance coverage with enough room to pay judgments for lost wages and benefits.

The bill’s sponsor, Rolla veterinarian Dan Brown, says 75 percent of the malpractice insurance companies doing business in Missouri stopped offering coverage before the first limits were imposed. He’s afraid that will happen again if his bill isn’t passed.



Kansas legislature approves health compact legislation originated in Missouri

Kansas is on the verge of banding with 8 other states including Missouri in forming an interstate health care compact, which would let states go their own way with health care rather than participate in the federal healthcare reform law.

Representative Eric Burlison (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Eric Burlison (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The same plan that has passed out of the Kansas legislature, and has become law in 8 states, was first proposed in Missouri. It needed two things to be ratified:  passage in at least two states, and Congressional authorization.

Representative Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) sponsored the first interstate compact proposal, which was enacted in 2011. He says states in the compact would have an option other than the Affordable Care Act.

“Let states decide what’s in the best interest for their citizens and if something’s working in another state, then we can glean ideas from that state and implement them in our state,” says Burlison. “That way you are seeing innovation at work and you’re seeing creative ideas at work instead of supressing every state with a one-size-fits-all, mediocre solution.”

Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford (R) has introduced legislation that would give Congressional approval to the compact. It has been referred to a subcommittee. If it clears the Republican-controlled House it faces a tough road in a Democrat-controlled Senate, which Republicans hope to take control of in elections this year.

“It may not be this [Congress] that’s able to do it, but any future legislature could adopt the interstate compact,” says Burlison.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) hasn’t said whether he will sign that state’s compact legislation.

Senate could soon take up eating disorder insurance bill, former Miss America lobbies for passage

A former Miss America hopes this is the year Missouri passes legislation to require health insurance plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders.

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund stands with Representative Rick Stream, sponsor of the House version of the eating disorder insurance legislation.  (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund stands with Representative Rick Stream, sponsor of the House version of the eating disorder insurance legislation. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund has visited the Missouri Capitol once again, urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would require insurance plans go farther to help people fighting eating disorders.

Senate legislation on the issue is awaiting attention by the full chamber, while a House bill has been heard by a committee that hasn’t voted on it.

Haglund told lawmakers at the Capitol that she, herself survived a struggle with an eating disorder.

“The reason I’m here is to say that treatment works and we need to be able to offer people the full spectrum of care covered by insurance because the costs to treat eating disorders can just devastate families.”

Haglund says there is a wide gap between what treatment for eating disorders is covered and what is not.

“They’ll cover like 5 days of care or 7 days of care and then [their insurance company drops] coverage, or a girl or guy will get to 85- or 90-percent of their ideal body weight and then they drop coverage,” says Haglund. “You put that person back out into real life and you’ve only treated the body. You haven’t treated the mental component, the psychological component. That’s where the real problem lies and a lot of insurers want to get out of full coverage.”

The bill in the Senate is SB 769 and in the House is HB 1493.

Heated debate drives Medicaid reform from Senate (AUDIO)

Senate discussion of Medicaid reform has been stopped when debate between two Republican Senators started to turn a little ugly.   The disagreement was between Senator Ryan Silvey of Kansas City, who proposes state fixes to problems with the Affordable Care act, and John Lamping of St. Louis, who opposes any accommodation  with the ACA.  Lamping says Siley would rather change than fight.  Lamping accuses Silvey of being a “political pragmatist,” the kind of politician responsible for government growth.                                  

“It’s time for you to take the hard stand and say no. You’re taking the pragmatic stand, the easy stand,” Lamping told Silvey.

Silvey objected, “It’s easy for me to stand up in a Republican party with people like yourself who would rather talk about soundbites and Obamacare than the actual problems Obama care has created?  It’s easier for me to do that than to stand with you and never get into the—”

“Well, maybe it’s just easy for you because it’s in your nature,” Lamping shot back.

Moments later, Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard stopped debate.  He’s not sure when he will let it resume.  He says some problems with the bill need to be worked out away from the Senate floor.

AUDIO: Acrimonious debate 19:20