A bill to shore up the current state budget has passed the legislature, but not before Democrats harshly criticize Republicans for rejecting a proposal made by fellow Democrat Governor Nixon.
The House put the final touches on SCS HCS HB14 with a 91-to-67 vote and sent it to Nixon. The supplemental budget bill was held up in the Senate for a time. The Missouri Department of Transportation contended a provision calling for accountability of how the state spent federal economic stimulus funds could interfere with highway and bridge contracts. The Senate fixed the problem and returned the bill to the House.
Majority Republicans rejected a proposal by Nixon which the governor claims would provide health care coverage to an additional 20,000 children.
"Covering kids should be the one thing that this state does, the fundamental, one thing that this state does with its health care dollars," said Rep. Mike Talboy, a Democrat from Kansas City during House floor debate.
Talboy launched into a harsh exchange with Republican Rep. Jeff Grisamore of Lee’s Summit, contending that Republicans in general and Grisamore in particular didn’t care about children.
"You don’t want to cover kids," Talboy asserted, often talking over Grisamore during their House floor debate.
Grisamore defended the Republican stance. He claimed that the governor’s proposal wouldn’t add any children to the state health insurance program, but would only eliminate or lower the premiums parents have to pay for children to be on it.
That explanation didn’t satisfy Talboy. Grisamore said the current program offers health care to families making up to $73,000/year. He asked Talboy if we wanted that threshold raised.
"I think I made my point pretty clear on that, I would cover every kid regardless." Talboy responded
Grisamore pressed him, asking if the state should extend health care coverage to children even if their parents earn a six figure salary. Talboy answered, "Yes."
The supplemental budget bill totals $133 million. It supplements the current state budget, plugging in holes where revenue fell short. The Nixon Administration requested $939,000 be added to the bill. Administration officials said that would allow Missouri to draw down $5 million in federal funding which could be used to expand health care coverage for children.
The State Family Support Division says legislation approved in 2005 extended health care to 41,000 children, 16,000 of whom lost health care when their parents failed to pay the premiums. Currently, a Missouri family making between 150 to 185% of the federal poverty level must pay $66/month to receive SCHIP coverage. The monthly premium rises to $109 for families earning between 186 and 225% of poverty and to $165 for families earning between 226 and 300% of poverty. The Nixon Administration proposes dropping the premium requirement.