JEFFERSON CITY - A Missouri House panel defeated a Democratic-backed measure to expand the state's Medicaid program Monday, Feb. 25, despite an overwhelming number of witnesses voicing their support at the hearing.
Republicans defeated the measure in a 5-2 vote split among party lines.
But the Medicaid issue may not be dead in Missouri's House.
The House Government Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said he is currently drafting a Medicaid bill of his own.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, would provide up to 300,000 more Missourians access to Medicaid.
Currently, only 19 percent of Missourians below the federal poverty line are eligible. The Nixon administration has proposed raising Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of those below the the line to receive coverage. A family of four, for example, earning $32,499 annually would be eligible under the administration's proposal.
The original federal health care law required states to expand Medicaid eligibility. But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that requirement, making it optional for the states.
Under the expansion, the federal government would pay the entire costs of the first three years for the new recipients, phasing out the 90 percent in subsequent years.
Hummel expressed concern that should the state not expand Medicaid, it will miss out on the federal funding allocated under the federal healthcare law.
"These are our dollars that we're sending to Washington that we need to bring back to the states," Hummel said.
Critics, however, argued giving more funding to the program would worsen the program's efficiency.
"Medicaid is a system that right now doesn't work...why are we going to take an additional 300,000 Missourians, and put them into a system that nobody believes works very efficiently to begin?" said Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.
Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, added that this expansion would not only grow the health care system, but also add to the $16 trillion federal debt.
A representative from a conservative think thank -- former House Budget Committee Chairman Carl Bearden -- was the only witness opposed to the measure,
He said expansion would be the wrong way to go both fiscally and logically.
“We should fix what is broken first,” Bearden said. “It is a fairy tale to believe that there is anything as free government money.”