Medicaid to be revamped under Senate bill
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Medicaid to be revamped under Senate bill

Date: February 22, 2007
By: Cliff Ainsworth
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 577

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill proposed Thursday in the Missouri Senate would replace the state's Medicaid program and aim to provide coverage for all eligible Missourians in five year, but would not restore people whose coverage was eliminated by budget cuts two years ago.

"Our vision is that everyone has access to affordable health care," said Sen. Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, who is sponsoring the measure.

The fact that the bill would not change eligibility requirements to restore 100,000 Missourians who lost Medicaid in 2005 drew condemnation from Democrats.

"That's who this legislation ought to be targeting, that's who we should be bringing back into the fold to make healthy," said Democratic Floor Leader Maida Coleman, St. Louis City.

Shields said restoring those who were cut would be addressed in other bills being considered by legislators.

Coleman also questioned the plan's provision to award doctors for performance. 

"Our greatest problem with Medicaid fraud was created by providers," Coleman said.  "I want to make sure there's something in here that controls this program and incentives to providers."

Shields' plan would also provide incentives to patients for making healthy behavioral choices.  Under the bill, a health care advocate for each participant would help patients with medical decision-making, including how to earn and spend reward points for quitting smoking or losing weight.  Shields said the points could be used to buy prescription drugs or pay for fitness club membership.

Under Shield's bill, the Medicaid program, which is set to expire next year, would be renamed MOHealthNet and aim to enroll everyone who is eligible for the plan over a five-year period.  The enrollment would be phased, with parents and children not currently covered enrolled by July 2009 and enroll all those who receive assistance for being aged, blind or disabled by July 2013.