Prevention new focus of Medicaid proposal

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — With just a little more than two weeks to go in the legislative session, the Medicaid proposal passed by the Senate a few weeks ago might be changed to add more medical services instead of creating wellness incentives, as previously proposed.

Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the Healthcare Facilities Committee, offered an alternative Medicaid plan Monday, which he says will provide more services to Missourians and make the proposed Missouri HealthNet more efficient.

Schaaf said his proposal will be designed to allow more Missourians to receive preventative care such as dental work rather than creating incentives for wellness, as other Republicans, including Gov. Matt Blunt, have proposed.

“I’d rather give them dental,” Schaaf said. “I know that dental care can be very preventive. If you get people the care they need, it prevents them from going to the hospital emergency room, and if you get them the dental care they need, then it helps to prevent them from getting sick.”

According to Schaaf, his proposal, which is still being worked on and will be heard in committee today, will allow the state to create pilot programs within the health care system and allow for an oversight committee to decide which programs are effective and which are not. Schaaf offered the new proposal after the original bill was discussed in a preliminary committee hearing last week.

Schaaf said the rough draft of his proposal, which is 183 pages long, also provides more description of the services that will be provided than the original proposal.

The original Medicaid proposal, offered by Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, passed the Senate in early April and now awaits approval in the House.

In April, Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to add amendments to Shields’ proposal that would restore benefits to those cut from Medicaid in 2005. House Democratic Floor Leader Jeff Harris of Columbia still maintains that the primary focus of any health care bill should be “undoing the damage that the governor did two years ago.”

Harris said of Schaaf’s proposal: “I haven’t seen anything thus far that restores access to health care for the people that the governor and his cronies cut off of health care two years ago. That’s where the conversation ought to begin and that’s where the discussion ought to end.”

Two legislators, Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, and Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, have proposed bills that would restore Medicaid eligibility to those cut in 2005.

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