Two Medicaid bills rejected

Two Republican-dominant committees rejected Democratic proposals Monday, regarding state Medicaid expansion.

One proposal would have added additional funding for Medicaid expansion to the 2014 state budget and the other would have expanded Medicaid to as many as 300,000 Missourians.

The second proposal, sponsored by House Minority Leader Rep. Jake Hummel, received much support from Missouri medical organizations and business groups at its hearing, but the House’s government oversight and accountability committee voted 5-2, rejecting the bill that would have expanded Medicaid eligibility requirements to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, providing an $8.2 billion investment to the state. It would have also created 24,000 news jobs and would have provided an additional $9.6 billion in economic activity in Missouri by 2020.

Committee chairman Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, voted against the bill.

“This certainly is an issue,” Barnes said of the state’s health care system. “We looked at it today, and I think we will continue looking at it.”

Barnes is expected to introduce his own Medicaid transformation legislation Tuesday that would expand Medicaid coverage to some people, cut others off the program, require participants to pay more out-of-pocket and “inject competition” into Medicaid health care plans.

“For both recipients and taxpayers, Missouri Medicaid is in drastic need of a transformation to make it the most market-based Medicaid system in our entire country, and indeed, in the history of the federal program,” Barnes said when Hummel’s bill was introduced.

Dozens of people and organizations testified in favor of Hummel’s bill and one organization, United for Missouri, testified in opposition.

“Given the overwhelming support for the bill, I am deeply disappointed that the Republican-controlled committee summarily rejected the bill on a straight party-line vote,” Hummel said. “By voting ‘no’ on House Bill 627, Republican committee members also have said ‘no’ to creating 24,000 new jobs in Missouri and ‘yes’ to eliminating 5,000 existing jobs, which will be lost if the state fails to act.”

Misty Snodgrass, director of legislative and government relations for the American Cancer Society, testified in support of Hummel’s bill and said Medicaid expansion is an access issue.

“In order to reduce (cancer) mortality, we have to have access to affordable health care,” Snodgrass said. “There are hospitals that will shut down, and that will affect access for patients.”

Some House Bill 627 skeptics believe the state’s Medicaid system already has flaws and worry that expanding it would only make things worse.

“We have a system now that doesn’t work,” said Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. “Why put 300,000 more Missourians in a system that doesn’t work?”

Carl Bearden, United for Missouri’s executive director, agreed.

“We’re all for reform, but expansion is the wrong way to go,” Bearden said. “We should fix what’s broken before expansion.”

Even with the House committee’s rejection of the bill, Hummel is still hopeful for expansion.

When introducing the bill last week, he said the House Minority Caucus is willing to work with House Republicans on Medicaid legislation.

“It is still early in the legislative session, however, and we are hopeful that with the help of Missouri’s medical and business groups we can educate our Republican friends of the fact that creating 24,000 new jobs is better than eliminating 5,000 existing jobs,” Hummel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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