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Harlan sticks by health-care plan

May 04, 1999
By: Anna Brutzman
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 338, HB 718, HB 348

JEFFERSON CITY - Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, showed Tuesday that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

A legislative committee chairman's unfriendly reception of his health-care bill all but destroyed any chance of it's getting onto the Senate floor for debate. But Harlan responded late Tuesday by adding his bill as an amendment onto a related mental-health bill.

"It revived all the language of my bill," Harlan said.

Already passed in the House, Harlan's original bill would have made coverage more accessible by letting the self-employed deduct health-insurance costs from their taxes and letting high-risk individuals take part in the state's health-insurance pool.

Harlan's bill was scheduled to be discussed Tuesday in the Senate Pensions and General Laws Committee, conceivably the last stop on its way to the Senate floor. But the committee's chairman, Sen. John Scott, D-St. Louis, said that Harlan's bill, with an expense to the state of anywhere between $150 million and $200 million per year, is too expensive to add on to the other tax cuts working their way through the legislature that would cost another $150 million or more.

"We've been working with $180 million all session," Scott said early last week.

With partial-birth abortion filibuster taking up almost the entire day, the committee meeting had to be postponed -- until an as-yet-unscheduled date -- because Senate rules prohibit a committee meeting when the Senate is in session.

So late in the session and with a number of important House bills -- including a major income-tax cut -- yet to be debated on the Senate floor, Harlan's original bill now has almost no chance of making it onto the floor for a vote.

Thus Harlan's move to add his original bill's language to the mental-health bill.

That bill, which would require insurance companies to offer mental-health coverage to those already insured for physical ailments, along with Harlan's amendment, was adopted by the House on Tuesday. It will now go to the Senate for discussion, Harlan said, and then, hopefully, to a conference committee for negotiation.

In other legislative action Tuesday as the Senate continued its day-long filibuster:

The House passed and sent to the Senate the final compromise version of a bill that would create a registry of juvenile sex offenders. Juvenile officers will also be required to notify school superintendents of any pending sex-offender cases in their district.