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Clinton approves Medicaid waiver

April 29, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House today is scheduled to debate a proposal by the governor that would subsidize health care coverage for children of middle-income parents.

The bill would cover families with incomes up to $40,000 for a household of three -- a threshold three times the federal poverty level.

Carnahan called the approval by the legislature punch two in a one-two punch.

Punch one came Tuesday, when Carnahan announced the Clinton administration had approved his Medicaid waiver. The waiver requested raising the threshold for coverage for children in families with a household income up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the federal-state health care program for the poor.

"This exciting news means Missouri has the opportunity to provide health insurance to more than 90,000 of our uninsured children," Carnahan said during a press conference.

He was joined by Vice President Al Gore via a teleconference call, and flanked by Democratic lawmakers who are charged with shepherding his proposal through the legislature.

A current funding bill caps coverage at 200 percent. Carnahan's staff said raising the level to 300 percent would cover 27,000 more children.

Rep. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he will offer an alternative plan during the debate in the House.

Instead of expanding Medicaid, Shields said he wants to offer tax credits to all parents who buy health insurance for their children. He said his plan would set up private health insurance purchasing cooperatives instead of expanding existing programs.

"People buying insurance ought to be the ones designing packages," Shields said.

During his press conference, Carnahan fired a shot at Senate Republicans for blocking his Kids Care package last year. The plan would have set up a new program to expand health care coverage for children. Republicans blocked it, saying they supported expanding the existing Medicaid program instead.

Carnahan's proposal limits coverage to those who have been uninsured at least six months. Parents would pay premiums and co-payments based on a sliding scale. Part of the funds to pay for the expansion would come from the federal government, and part from the state.

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