Missouri healthcare debate is heating up

JEFFERSON CITY – Last week the Missouri House put their foot down on some federal stimulus money for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s supplemental budget proposal last week called for $1.9 million for SCHIP that would be required for a federal match of about $5.5 million.
In a statement released last week the Governor said, “The Missouri House of Representatives turned down an opportunity to provide healthcare to 2,000 Missouri children, eliminated premiums for 19,000 others and take the first step to enroll 20,000 more children. By refusing to make a minimal investment of $1.9 million in the health of our kids, House Republicans turned away $5.5 million in federal matching funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program and sent a disappointing signal that health care for Missouri children is not one of their priorities. Health insurance for Missouri kids remains a top priority for my administration, and I look forward to working with the Senate to correct yesterday’s grievous error.”
Today, the Governor unveils a new plan to cover an additional 35,000 Missourians without any cost to tax payers.
House Minority Leader Paul LeVota agreed with Nixon and took a shot at local Rep. Bob Nance. He said Republicans in the House towed the party line and also said not only is it cruel but fiscally irresponsible.
“Bob Nance voted for 20,000 kids to not have healthcare. In a straight party line vote, they rejected it,” LeVota said.
He said he is hopeful the Senate will add the Governor’s request back into the supplemental budget. If unsuccessful, LeVota said they would continue to fight to get the funding added back into the next fiscal year.
“I’m optimistic they will do the right thing,” LeVota said. “These guys in the House are just so set in their dogma that government shouldn’t be doing this that they are willing to hurt kids.”
Nance said on Monday that LeVota and other Democrats are distorting the facts. He said the governor’s plan would add 20,000 people that are already paying premiums.
SCHIP was designed to help families whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford premiums. Nance contends that the families Nixon and LeVota want to add to the state’s budget can afford the premiums. Nance said he would rather focus efforts on getting kids who do qualify for Medicaid and are not taking advantage of it for whatever reason onto the system.
“Government says, ‘here’s some money, spend it and by the way you’re going to have to put more money with it.’” Nance said. “We at least have to make an effort to get them signed up and get the word out there that they do qualify.”
LeVota says that a provision in the budget proposal had money allocated for outreach efforts and that Republican’s voted against it as well.
Nance, however, has introduced legislation that would require state social services to provide schools with written criteria for the coverage that must be distributed to parents. Furthermore the bill instructs The Department of Social Services to conduct studies to determine the effects of the program and the overall costs. HB 293 passed out of the House Healthcare Transformation Committee last month but has not been put on the House Calendar yet.
Nance said he wants to make the law say if a child qualifies for reduced lunches or if a family is on WIC they would automatically qualify for Medicaid. HB 293 does not address that issue. According to a Daily News story last year, 39 percent of Richmond School District kids qualify for reduced lunches. School Superintendent Jim Robins said the number is closer to 50 percent in the Kindergarten through fifth grade levels.

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