A week remains in the legislative session, with one of the biggest bills to face the legislature in years hanging in the balance. MO HealthNet is Governor Blunt’s proposal to replace Medicaid. The House approved its version of SB 577 at the end of a long legislative day Friday.

Democrats harshly criticized Republicans during a debate limited to three hours by the Republican majority. Democrats say the legislature should be considering the restoration of approximately 90,000 Missourians cut from Medicaid two years ago. They contend the budget has improved enough to restore public health care assistance to those individuals. One Democrat went so far as to call Republicans hard-hearted for turning their backs on those people. Democrats referred to the new program not as MO Health Net, but as "NO" Health Net.

Republicans defend MO Health Net as needed reform. They say that no matter how well the state budget has turned around, it cannot support the current program. House sponsor, Rep. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) calls it true reform. He says Democrats are so focused on the Medicaid cuts of two years ago, they can’t see the need for a program that attempts to help people adopt healthier lifestyles.

The House version of MO Health Net differs significantly from the Senate version and the final outcome of the SB 577 will rest more on whether Republicans can work out their differences, not on whether Republicans and Democrats can compromise.

The House focuses more on physician reimbursement than the Senate version. An amendment added Friday places a revised Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) into the bill. The program is also known as Ticket to Work. The health care for disabled workers was cut in 2005. Efforts to restore a scaled-down version have been unsuccessful.

The legislature session ends Friday at six o’clock. House and Senate negotiators will have five days to work out their differences and send a bill to Governor Blunt.


Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)