Medicaid expiration date looms

The House plans to pass a new bill by the end of this session.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:11 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives has five weeks to pass legislation restructuring Medicaid. Otherwise, the program’s June 2008 expiration date would force legislators to come up with a two-thirds vote for an “emergency clause” next year to prevent it from expiring.

The sunset provision, which dissolves the Medicaid program, was added to the statute in 2005. Missouri law states that any legislation passed during a session will not take effect until Aug. 28 of that year. The only way around that delay is to pass an emergency clause. Without it, any restructuring of Medicaid next year would not take effect until after the program will have expired.

Rep. Robert Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, the chairman of the House committee the bill was assigned to, said he will probably take up the bill next week. He said that four weeks is “way more than enough time” to pass the bill.

But House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said he is against the legislation, which was pushed by Gov. Matt Blunt in his State of the State address.

“The governor’s scheme is inadequate because it doesn’t restore health care for the senior citizens, the persons with disabilities, the kids and the working families whose health care he cut two years ago,” he said.

Schaaf said the bill will face changes in committee and on the House floor. Schaaf, a family physician, wants to add a provision to increase the reimbursement rates for physicians who see Medicaid patients.

“One of the big problems has been access — providers not participating in the program,” he said. “And the biggest problem there, is reimbursement and I think we have to address that issue.”

Schaaf said that the changes would not affect the likelihood of the bill’s passage.

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