State senators considering overhauling the Medicaid program they should make a priority of changing the spend-down requirements for the first time in almost half a century. 

Elderly, blind, and disabled Missourians served by Medicaid have been limited to $1,000 in assets–$2,000 as a couple–since the program was born in 1965.  Their net income can’t be more than 85% of the federal poverty level–although blind Missourians are eligible with incomes at 100%—that’s $958 a month, $1293 as a couple.

Medicaid Supervisor Joanie Gillam of Viburnum tells a senate committee that kind of money was meaningful in 1965.  But today it’s a tragedy. “These people have to ask for help for everything because of that asset (limit),” she says.

Gillam says any reforms of the Medicaid program should at least double the asset limits allowed for program participants.  Her plea strikes a chord with committee chairman Gary Romine of St. Genevieve, who says it “just boggles my mind that we have not done anything to deal with that since ’65.”

His committee will explore the issue more with additional hearings. It is one of three interim legislative committees considering Medicaid reforms and possible expansion. The committees hope to make recommendations to the legislature next year.

AUDIO: Gillam testimony 18:28