Chairman to make ‘unusual’ move with Medicaid bill

Thursday, April 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:10 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — With only about three weeks left in the 2007 legislative session, the chairman of the House committee reviewing the bill to restructure Medicaid is holding a second hearing on the bill and may completely restructure it.

Wednesday’s first hearing ended with Rep. Robert Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, saying that the committee will submit a substitute bill and take testimony again Tuesday and Wednesday of next week before revising the new bill and submitting it to the House floor.

He called the move a “very unusual way of doing business.”

Schaaf would not say what changes he intends to make, but said that the new bill will be posted online in a “couple of days.”

“I’m going to try to get it out as soon as I can, and if I have to I’ll have it available on Monday, or even on Sunday,” he said. “I’m going to do the very best I can.”

The five people who testified in support of the bill said that while they are in overall support of it, there are pieces that they aren’t happy with.

Beth Griffin, executive director of the Citizens for Missouri Children, testified in favor of two provisions of the bill, saying that the organization is unable to support the entire bill, saying they “have concerns about a lot of it.”

She testified in favor of the part of the bill that extends Medicaid coverage to children in foster care until the age of 21, as well as the provision that establishes health care homes. The health care home would be responsible for creating a health improvement plan for the patient to follow.

While Griffin testified that she is in favor of the provision, she said that she is also apprehensive about it.

“But in this provision we know that the devil is in the details,” she said. “We are concerned that this provision not lead to put in another obstacle in the way of coverage being allowed to a child. We feel that a health care home should be truly a professional pediatric home and that the persons who are providing services for the children need to be very involved in being that health care home.”

Some who testified in opposition pointed to apprehensions, such as Griffin’s, as examples of weaknesses in the legislation created by vague language.

The Rev. James T. Morris of the Lane Tabernacle Church in St. Louis testified in opposition to the bill, citing the 2005 cuts.

“These people who were cut in 2005 from the Medicaid roles are sick and dying, and they need somebody to do something to help them,” he said. “(Senate Bill) 577 doesn’t go nearly far enough, and I don’t believe that you who sit here cannot work harder, look a little deeper, and find a way to fund health care for the citizens of Missouri. It is a shame.”

Morris called on the committee to have compassion for people who are less fortunate than themselves.

After the hearing, Schaaf addressed those who testified for restoring the 2005 cuts.

“We cannot restore all of the cuts that were made,” he said. “I don’t believe that it is economically possible for us to do that, although we will address all of the concerns that we have heard, and we will consider some expansions.”

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