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Missouri House GOP rejects children’s health-care expansion

Resource type: News

The Kansas City Star |


JEFFERSON CITY | Missouri House Republicans on Wednesday shot down an attempt by Democratic lawmakers and the governor to reduce health-care premiums and increase access for thousands of children.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had proposed expanding the number of families eligible to enroll their children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for free and capping the monthly premium for others in his supplemental budget for the current fiscal year.

Republicans on the House Budget Committee, however, did not include the recommendation in the budget bill debated Wednesday. That led committee Democrats to attempt several tactics to reintroduce the expansion, all of which failed.

The budget bill was voted out of committee and now moves to the House floor for debate.

Nixon and House Democrats had proposed eliminating premiums for enrollees whose families earned up to 225 percent of the federal poverty level – $3,975 a month for a family of four. For families earning from 225 to 300 percent of the poverty level, premiums would have been limited to $50 a month.

The changes would have provided insurance to about 20,000 more children, according to budget documents and the state Department of Social Services.

Currently, families earning more than 150 percent of the poverty level pay premiums ranging from $12 to $334 or more a month, depending on income and family size.

The plan would have cost the state about $939,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. An additional $5.5 million would have been picked up by the federal government.

Nixon has cut other areas of the budget to make the funds available, said Linda Luebbering, the administration’s budget and planning director.

Republicans didn’t quibble so much with the proposal’s potential cost as with the violation of budget protocol. Supplemental budget bills are intended to pay for additional, unforeseen costs of ongoing programs – not new programs or expansions, said Budget Chairman Allen Icet, a St. Louis County Republican.

“We don’t expand programs” in supplemental bills, Icet said. “That’s for the normal budget process.”

Democrats called the decision a callous denial of medical care for children.

“House Republicans’ refusal to ensure that more children receive needed medical care, especially in this time of financial difficulty for many Missouri families, is mind-boggling,” said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat.

The committee’s vote came as hundreds of people Wednesday rallied at the Capitol for an expansion of government health care.

Nixon met with the crowd, insisting his health-care plans were affordable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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