The state wants Missouri parents who have had their Medicaid coverage cancelled to fill out an application and see if their kids still qualify. The request applies to those who have lost coverage since August 2018.
State Representative David Wood, R-Versailles, says about 120,000 Missourians are no longer getting Medicaid due to a federal healthcare law change and an improving economy. But he says about 90,000 of those are children who are probably still eligible for coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program commonly called CHIP.
“Now did the Department (of Social Services) do a very good job of explaining that when they gave the cancellation of their coverage? Probably not. We could’ve done better,” says Wood, who heads a House budget committee involving social services. “Our enrollment processes could be easier. Our phone center could do a better job of answering calls, but we’re not in the business of taking off people that are covered just trying to save money. We want to cover everybody that qualifies.”
Missouri’s Medicaid budget is about $10 billion, accounting for more than one-third of the state’s $30 billion operating budget.
Wood says the Department of Social Services’ issues should not be viewed as a big conspiracy.
“It’s not that the Governor Nixon administration put on a whole bunch of kids because they could or the Governor Parson administration has taken them off just to try and save money. The reality is we had a lot of applications come in. We didn’t do a good job of verifying the incomes. We are now verifying the incomes and doing a better job so those people are dropping off the rolls. But if they’d re-apply under a different category, some of them would still be covered.”
During a press conference this week, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, says she wants Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, to freeze cancellations of Medicaid coverage until she says the matter is cleared up.
“After a year of work on this issue and with a bipartisan desire for action, we have the chance during the coming weeks to do right by Missouri’s children and I hope the Republican leadership will make this a priority,” says Quade. “Pausing this disenrollment is vital to making sure that we can figure out exactly what is going on. We need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that those kids who qualify have healthcare coverage.”
Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, says the state should automatically re-enroll the kids affected.
“Why we are asking the parents to pick up for our mistake doesn’t make sense to me. We know that 300 kids were put back on without any hesitation and yet the overall number is still down,” she says. “If we know children who’ve been kick off are being put on almost automatically once there’s a process, then why are the numbers still going down? I think more children have been kicked off of healthcare than we realize.”
Missourinet asked Parson’s office for a response yesterday, but one was not given by deadline time.
Wood says Missouri’s process to enroll should be simplified. The state’s public assistance application is 63 pages – making it the second longest in the country.
A company is reviewing Missouri’s enrollment measures and releasing its results to the state this month. Wood says then the work will begin to make changes.
Meanwhile, State Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, is proposing to reduce the enrollment paperwork to one page. A House committee unanimously passed her bill this week. House Bill 1960 heads to another committee for consideration.
View state data about the number of Missourians receiving public assistance.
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