JEFFERSON CITY — Advocates for the almost 130,000 children and adults who have been dropped from the state’s Medicaid program met with Democratic lawmakers Thursday to discuss the impact of the cuts.
“We heard from a lot of the legal aid groups that are helping folks who have been kicked off Medicaid get back on. Nearly 100%of them still qualify,” said state Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. Among the problems discussed during a Thursday meeting called by Quade are renewal letters being sent to the wrong addresses, documentation being misplaced by state officials and an outdated technical system.
About 100,000 children and 30,000 adults were removed from state Medicaid roles, according to testimony given Thursday.
Gov. Mike Parson’s administration and Republican leadership have said that the declining numbers reflect the robust economic growth in Missouri, resulting in fewer people needing the program.
Timothy McBride, a professor at Washington University and a former member of the state MO HealthNet Oversight Committee, said during the meeting that an improving economy doesn’t fully explain the Medicaid numbers. “I’m an economist, so I have never believed the explanations of the economy were compelling,” he said.
While McBride said it’s true that low unemployment rates in Missouri show that the economy is doing well, children account for over 80% of those who have lost coverage.
The income threshold for children to be removed from Medicaid is much higher than that for adults without children. McBride said it is unlikely that parents have seen enough of an increase in their income to make them ineligible for the program.
Bridget McCandless, CEO of the Health Forward Foundation in Kansas City, said there is a surprisingly high number of disabled citizens being dropped from Medicaid.
Quade said that’s an indication that the economy is not the answer. “Their income is not changing, because they are not working,” she said.
That’s one reason that Quade remains unconvinced the economy is responsible for the drop in Medicaid coverage.
“I’m not going to accept that as an answer,” Quade said.
Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said Wednesday that statistics showing that the number of Medicaid enrollees has leveled out help to confirm that an improved economy is responsible for the reduced Medicaid numbers. He also blamed the “last administration” for not conducting proper oversight and failing to remove people who weren’t actually eligible for the program.
Haahr, the House majority leader, said he does believe more scrutiny of the decrease is necessary.
“We continue to monitor those numbers,” Harr said. “I don’t think at this point that we need hearings.”
Quade disagreed, saying that the state needs to look at its budgetary priorities and “really try to address this.”
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