About 60,000 older Missourians who get state assistance to pay for prescription drugs will lose their coverage as of Saturday.
A program known as Missouri Rx will no longer be offered to seniors who make between 85% and 185% of the federal poverty level, which is up to $22,000 for an individual. The arrangement being eliminated covered 50% of their prescription drug costs.
Mark Luetkemeyer, a Missourinet listener, is one of many people who received a letter informing them of the change within the past couple of weeks.
The rollback in funding was the result of cuts lawmakers made to balance the state’s budget after tax revenues fell short. Discontinuing the subsidy saved $15 million.
The aid was part of a larger overall Missouri Rx program that was scheduled to sunset August 28th, but was preserved by the legislature in the final days of the session.
Republican state Representative David Wood of Versailles sponsored the measure. He says the program’s extension means assistance that’s about to be discontinued can be reinstated as early as next year.
“That way it’s still a budget line” said Wood. “It’s still a program. And if revenues improve, we can put it back to the other population very easily. If we had let the whole thing sunset and expire, then it would’ve been a whole new bill, a new decision item in the budget. It would’ve been a lot more difficult to get through.”
The group of seniors losing their coverage account for 30% of the program. The 70% who will keep their eligibility make under 85% of the federal poverty level, or up to roughly $10,000 for an individual.
Those people have dual eligibility, meaning they qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Governor Greitens could still veto the legislation, which would eliminate the funding for everyone, although such a move is not considered likely.
The decision to suspend the smaller portion of the program was made when the Senate and House were deadlocked over funding for 8,000 in-home and nursing home elderly and disabled people.
Wood says lawmakers were focused on finding a solution. “We were really looking to try and make sure that our level of care for in-home health care and nursing homes was that we didn’t take any more people out of that than we absolutely had to.”
In the end, coverage for the 8,000 recipients was kept in place as were tax credits for low income seniors who rent their homes. Those now losing assistance for prescriptions could face the tough choice of purchasing their medications or paying other monthly bills.
Wood admits he’s been contacted by numerous constituents who are frustrated over the cut, but says lawmakers had little choice in the matter. “It’s not an easy decision. It is very, very tough. It’s one of those things that when you don’t have enough money, somebody has to be cut. Unfortunately this was one of the places that was hit.”
If revenues pick up and the benefits are restored next year, they could remain in place for several years. The provisions of the overall Missouri Rx Program were extended by lawmakers to sunset in 2022.
The state Department of Social Services, which administers the program, has suggested other resources that may be helpful to those impacted by the change in law:
- To see if you qualify for MO HealthNet (Medicaid), call the Family Support Division at 1-855-373-4636.
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance 1-888-477-2669 or online at pparx.org
- Rx Outreach 1-800-769-3880
- Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri (CLAIM) 1-800-390-3330
- Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) 1-800-677-1116