HealthNet Replaces Medicaid

1 decade 1 year 1 month ago Friday, August 31 2007 Aug 31, 2007 Friday, August 31, 2007 3:25:48 AM CDT August 31, 2007 in News
Missouri HealthNet went into effect Tuesday, replacing the state's Medicaid system. But not everyone is happy with the new plan.

It's no secret that people can't agree how to provide health care for the state's low-income residents. We've seen fight after fight over who should be covered, ever since funding cuts hit Medicaid in 2005. But what if the two sides in this fight are just using health care to play the political game? Real issues or playing politics? You can be the judge.

No one could accuse Bob Pund of having it easy.

"I am dependent on Medicaid because I need personal care attendants. Without that I couldn't thrive, much less live," Pund said.

He lost his mobility in a car accident nearly twenty years ago, and the state's health care troubles only made things worse.

During a Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, or Pro-Vote, press conference Tuesday, Pund and other health care advocates from around the state said HealthNet is not the answer to the state's problems.

"We are here today at an emergency room dealing with a real emergency in the state of Missouri. That is the fact that many citizens and more citizens than ever have no access to health care," said Representative Judy Baker, D-Columbia.

Pro-Vote raises some legitimate questions about the merits of HealthNet. But Republicans said their fight is rooted more in politics than the health care system itself.

"They actually have received money from a foundation run by Jay Nixon, so they're just towing the Democratic party line," Paul Sloca of the Missouri Republican party explained.

Republicans wonder about Democrats' motives in questioning health care, and Democrats question Republicans' commitment to it in the first place.

Pro-Vote said that 400,000 people were affected and over 100,000 of those Medicaid recipients were cut completely from the program in 2005. That number is partially outweighed by a separate 104,000 people who gain coverage under HealthNet, but 81,000 of them are women who only get partial coverage.

But for Pund, the numbers don't matter.

"Other disability groups have tried to meet with Governor Blunt and he has refused to hear their concerns," he said.

HealthNet Concerns

HealthNet could be a potential disaster if not implemented properly, a report by Families USA said. Among the groups chief concerns are:

-The move of most Medicaid recipients into managed care. The group said that vulnerable populations, like the disabled and elderly, could fall through the cracks or not have access to the range of medical care that they require.

-Recipients would be required to sign health improvement agreements and engage in healthy lifestyles in order to earn points to pay for co-payments and over-the-counter drugs. Families USA said that a similar program in Florida is unpopular, and the efficacy is unproven. The group also said recipients could be prevented from accessing services a physician finds medically necessary.

-The level of co-payments is not specified, leaving it up to the HealthNet department. The group said increases in co-payments from current Medicaid levels would limit access and utilization by the low-income recipients.

HealthNet is set to cover 825,000 Missourians.

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