2 new House panels to tackle Medicaid

The Missouri House of Representatives has formed two interim committees to analyze possibilities for the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health insurance to the poor.

House Speaker Tim Jones announced Thursday that Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, will chair one committee and Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, will chair the other.

Jones is taking recommendations from the public this week of legislators, community members, doctors, anyone from the public to serve on Torpey’s committee, the Citizens and Legislators Working Group on Medicaid Eligibility and Reform. The committee comprises Missouri citizens and legislators. It will tour the state, collecting information to better help the General Assembly make an informed decision on Medicaid.

The committee will present the information to Barnes’ committee, the House Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation, which will analyze and dig deeper into what will be Missouri’s best Medicaid solution.

An interim Senate committee has already been created to study Medicaid and a bill not yet signed by Gov. Jay Nixon would create an interim Medicaid committee of Senate and House members.

This action stems from Missouri legislators deciding not to expand Medicaid during this year’s legislative session, which ended May 17.

The Affordable Care Act, a law of comprehensive health insurance reforms signed by President Obama in 2010, gave states the option of expanding Medicaid to up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level beginning in 2014, with full federal funding for the first three years and at least 90 percent funding the following years.

A bill filed during Missouri’s 2013 legislative session by Rep. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, fell in line with Obama’s call to expand Medicaid. The bill would have expanded Medicaid to as many as 300,000 Missourians. It would have expanded Medicaid eligibility requirements to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and it would have created 24,000 new jobs in the state. A Missouri House committee rejected the legislation in February.

“We rejected the president’s Medicaid expansion proposal because it represents a massive misuse of taxpayer dollars on a program that provides inferior access to health care and poor health outcomes,” said Jones, R-Eureka.

“We believe a better goal is to reform and transform our system of Medicaid so that it serves as a true safety net by providing our most vulnerable citizens with quality care.

“It is a goal that cannot be accomplished simply by blindly throwing more money at a broken program.”

Barnes filed a Medicaid transformation bill during the 2013 session, and while the bill passed one House committee, it failed to pass another. The legislation would have made fewer Missourians eligible for Medicaid and would have allowed those no longer eligible to qualify for subsidies within a state health exchange to help offset the costs of private insurance plans.

Regarding the interim committees, Barnes said there’s no preordained conclusions about Medicaid expansion or transformation.

“I think the issue of expansion is still very much up in the air as to how much, and whether or not to be honest,” Jones said.

He said people are questioning every dollar spent by the government.

“I think that expansion is going to have to be very tightly wrapped to conservative transformation and reform of a broken program,” he said. “We’ll see whether or not we get there.”

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