An overhaul of the Medicaid program has been approved by the legislature and sent to Governor Blunt., after lawmakers take the MO Health Net program to the brink before passing it on the last day.
One of, if not THE, biggest bill of the session comes down to the last day; the last couple of hours of the session, in fact. The House has approved MO Health Net, SB 577 , on a partisan vote. Only one Democrat voted for the bill. The Senate had passed the bill earlier in the day.
House sponsor Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) counters criticism that the program isn’t generous by noting it covers anyone earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level. He says that would include a family of three earning $51,000 a year. Schaaf also notes that the new program will cover more children than currently covered. The plan will change eligibility requirements for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIPS. More than 20,000 children in moderate-income families will be allowed to regain coverage. A women’s health initiative will provide basic medical care for women in moderate-income households.
The bill reinstates a scaled-down version of the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program, now called the Ticket-to-Work program. It will allow more than 3-Thousand disabled workers to access health care coverage through the state while keeping their jobs. Also, nearly 2,000 workers in the state’s various Sheltered Workshops will be able to get health care through MO Health Net.
Democrats don’t see the changes as positive. Top House Democrat, Rep. Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) says legislature has been left with the fall-out from Medicaid cuts approved by Governor Blunt two years ago. Harris says work on a Medicaid overhaul should have begun immediately after the cuts were made, not wait until the last day of the session.
Negotiators didn’t reach agreement until late Thursday night, just in time to deliver the proposal to lawmakers on the last day of the session. Talks took place behind closed doors in the Capitol throughout Thursday. First, staff members of Sen. Charles Shields (R-St. Joseph), the lead sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Schaaf met. Then, the two sponsors held talks. House leadership kept members in session on Thursday until just past two o’clock in the morning Friday. That allowed the revised bill to be placed on members desks a legislative day prior to debate, in compliance with House rules.