State lawmakers have approved Medicaid’s replacement, a program called MO Health Net, but much work lies ahead before the new program begins.

MO Health Net, SB 577 , is the ambitious replacement for Missouri’s Medicaid program. "We’re busily working on our timelines and the various steps that we will have to take to make MO Health Net happen," says Deborah Scott, director of the Department of Social Services. The MO Health Net bill gives the department much flexibility in hammering out the details of the bill. It does include, though, an Oversight Committee to watch its development and provide input, something Scott says she welcomes.

Scott says the final product will emphasize prevention and healthy living. It doesn’t, though, include all the prevention aspects Governor Blunt outlines in his initial proposal, such as providing incentives to recipients who maintain healthy lifestyles and stay away from expensive health care. Scott says that might eventually make it into the program.

MO Health Net does revive a scaled-down version of Medicaid coverage for disabled workers. The legislature eliminated the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program in 2005. It had grown well beyond its original price tag. Scott says provisions have been included in the MO Health Net bill to keep costs from getting out of control this time.

SB 577 does contain an emergency clause for one aspect of the bill, a clause that makes that provision go into effect immediately upon the signature of the governor. It extends coverage to foster children through the age of 21. Under the current Medicaid program, coverage expires when the child turns 18. The new program also will add back some children who lost coverage when the legislature cut Medicaid in 2005.

MO Health Net is expected to cost the state between $50 and 60 million a year. As a Medicaid program, it will receive funding from both the federal and state government.     The bill sits on Governor Blunt’s desk. A spokesman for the governor says the bill is under consideration. He is expected to sign it. It was one of the governor’s top legislative priorities.

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