Missouri to Reverse Some Medicaid Cuts?
Some legislators denounced waste, fraud and abuse last year as they repealed a Medicaid health care program for the working disabled.
Now it appears lawmakers are poised to re-enact a trimmed-down version of that program in 2006 - an acknowledgment, essentially, that last year's cuts went too far.
When lawmakers convene Wednesday, a new Medicaid plan for the working disabled will rank among the priorities in the House. And it will carry the endorsement of a joint House and Senate committee created to recommend reforms to the Medicaid program.
"There could be a lot of people saying we're backtracking or `See, you were wrong,'" said House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill. But "you don't always know the consequences of any bill you pass until it actually goes into place. As we hear the feedback and as your budget situation improves, you look to see what you can do" - or in this case, restore.
Jetton is backing a bill by Rep. Chuck Portwood, R-Ballwin, that would start a new version of the repealed program called Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities, or MAWD. Portwood says more than 40 legislators already have signed on as sponsors, and he predicts the bill could pass the House within the first 30 days of the session.
The momentum for the reversal appears to come partly from the 7,250 mentally disabled Missourians employed in 93 sheltered workshops around the state. They are paid below minimum wage to perform basic tasks such as shredding documents or packaging products for other companies. And many depend on Medicaid for their health care.