State officials say Missouri’s new Medicaid director will face multiple challenges.

House Speaker Todd Richardson addresses the Capitol Press Corps on September 12, 2018 in Jefferson City (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, will resign his seat in the Legislature on Thursday to become the new MO HealthNet Director. He’ll begin his new position that morning.

Medicaid provides low-income families and individuals with health care coverage. Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Steve Corsi says Richardson will face challenges.

“He will be charged with taking a look at sustainability for Medicaid statewide,” Corsi says. “Number two, we have a need to take a look at rural health care.”

Rural hospitals in Farmington, Kennett, Osceola and Reynolds County have closed since 2010.

DSS Director Corsi says Richardson will transform the program through modernization and innovation. Corsi notes Medicaid’s budget is now about $10 billion, which is about one-third of Missouri’s $28-billion dollar operating budget.

“He’ll be looking at the rising costs of Medicaid, and I think it’s fairly safe to assume that the rising costs of Medicaid are driving health care costs across the state and across the country,” says Corsi.

About one million Missourians are currently on Medicaid.

Richardson and Governor Mike Parson (R) told Missourinet at a press conference last week that they’re focused on reforming Medicaid, not expanding the program.

“My focus is not going to be on expanding the Medicaid eligibility,” Richardson said at that Statehouse press conference. “It’s going to be how do we work with its existing population to improve health outcomes, and how do we put it on a path to financial stability.”

The governor says providing accessible and quality health care to Missourians is critical to workforce development.

Governor Parson praises DSS for appointing Richardson to the post. Parson notes it’s been 22 months since Missouri had a permanent Medicaid director.

“I think it’s an area where we need to spend a lot more time on it when it comes to reform, and emphasis on that is going to be huge to the success of Missouri moving forward,” Parson says.

Richardson’s salary will be $225,000, according to Mr. Corsi and the governor’s office.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is again calling on the state to expand Medicaid. She says a lack of Medicaid expansion is a key factor in the financial stability of rural hospitals.

McCaskill cites a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which she requested.

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