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Republicans stall child health care

April 30, 1998
By: Samantha Young
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Extended debate by House Republicans blocked a vote on the governor's child health plan for the second day in a row Thursday.

The governor and House Democrats propose to expand the Medicaid entitlement program in Missouri to cover children of parents with incomes up to the middle-income range.

"Rebuild welfare as we know it," charged one GOPer -- playing on the "end welfare as we know it" former pledge of President Bill Clinton.

The governor announced Tuedsay that Missouri would receive an additional $51 million from the federal government to expand Medicaid. Carnahan proposees to use this money to raise Missouri's poverty level to 300 percent of the federal government's standard. That would mean a four person family in Missouri earning $49,000 could still benefit from government paid health care.

Those high figures have Republicans joining together and voting along party lines to defeat the governor's proposal. As a result, Democrats and Republicans went back and forth and engaged in hours of debate on the House floor Wednesday and Thursday.

"We're providing Medicaid to the rich people under their definition," said Don Lograsso, R-Blue Springs.

Supporters, however, claim that expanding Medicare would cover an extra 90,000 uninsured children in Missouri whose parents can not afford health care. Lowering the poverty level would exclude 27,000 children from the program, said Scott Lakin, D-Kansas City, sponsor of the bill.

"This insurance is only for the children," Lakin said. "Those children don't have a choice whether or not they have health insurance."

The bill would provide health coverage to uninsured children whose parents can not get welfare from their employer or can not afford private coverage. Parents would have to pay a premium based on a sliding scale of thier income, but that amount is minimal compared to private insurance costs.

Opponents said the high poverty level rate would cover middle-income families who can afford health care and is just an attmept to expand a government program.

"When I get something, I pay for it," said Jewell Patek, R-Chillicothe. "I don't take freebies. We believe in a safety net...we do not believe in socialized medicine."

The bill passed the Senate and unless House Democrats can gain enough votes to override the Republican debate, the bill could die in House.

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