House Committee Kills Medicaid Expansion Bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - Two hours of heated debate Monday ended in a party-line vote to kill a bill intended to expand the state's Medicaid program.

Bill sponsor and house minority leader Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, told KOMU 8 News he was disappointed that the committee held what he called "a referendum on whether or not we like the President of the United States." Hummel's bill would have made any Missourian with an income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level Medicaid-eligible.

During testimony, Pemiscot Memorial Hospital CEO Kerry Noble told the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee his hospital has very little financial leeway if Medicaid does not expand. He said his hospital has reduced staff three times since 2006 and will have to trim  expenses further this year regardless of what happens to the state's Medicaid system. Several proponents of expanding Medicaid noted federal Disproportionate Share Hospital, or DSH payments, are scheduled to drop over time as a result of new healthcare eligibility requirements and a Medicaid expansion would help offset this.

Several Republicans on the committee said the bill would have left the state vulnerable if the federal government was unable to meet its financial obligations. Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, called the bill a "Brinks truck approach," an analogy members of both parties were quick to pick up on.

"We've seen that approach on several failed stimulus bills," he said.

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, attacked the federal healthcare law as fiscally irresponsible and said Hummel was complicit in increasing the nation's debt by trying to expand Medicaid.

Hummel said he will continue to try to pass some sort of Medicaid expansion. He said he is open to pursuing a bipartisan solution with house Republicans, calling Medicaid too important an issue to leave to partisan bickering.