Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri House Approves Budget, No Money for Medicaid Expansion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri House Approves Budget, No Money for Medicaid Expansion

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri House approved a nearly $25 billion state spending plan Thursday that calls for slight increases in education funding and modest raises for most state employees in the coming year, but it doesn't include expansion of the state's Medicaid rolls.

Gov. Jay Nixon and other Democrats, as well as health care and business groups, have spent several months pushing for a federal Affordable Care Act-driven expansion of the health care program for the poor.

But the Republican-controlled House blocked multiple attempts this week to add the more than $900 million in federal dollars to the state budget proposal and expand eligibility to an estimated 300,000 Missourians.

The budget now goes to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration and changes. The Legislature has until May 10 to adopt a final spending plan, which will take effect July 1.

Most of the budget priorities have garnered bipartisan support, so Medicaid expansion became the highlight of the budget debate on the House floor this week.

Republicans repeatedly have said they don't want to take the federal money for Medicaid expansion without significant reforms to the program.

"The easiest decision would be for us to just hold our nose and take the handout," said Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

House Republicans have been pushing alternative efforts that would include reforms to the system, but no such proposal was counted in the budget bills the House approved.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states can expand their Medicaid eligibility requirements to cover more people, and the federal government will pick up the full cost of new recipients for the first three years and most of the costs beyond that.

About 880,000 Missourians are enrolled in Medicaid, which has varying degrees of coverage here based on income. The federal proposal would set eligibility at 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $32,500 for a family of four or $15,800 for a single person. …

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