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COLUMBIA - Missouri lawmakers had Monday off for the Easter holiday, but when they return, they'll work on a plan to keep the MoRx program in the budget for the next fiscal year.  The plan helps pay medical costs for more than 200,000 low-income seniors and disabled Missourians. MoRx works with Medicare Part D Plans to pay 50 percent of the out-of-pocket costs on medications as well as co-pays for low-income patients who qualify.

The program has been in existence since 1989, but will end August 28 unless lawmakers re-authorize it.

Many residents of Paquin Towers in Columbia rely on the MoRx program to pay portions of their medical costs. One resident, Eugenia Gill, said her medical bills are so high she has had to get assistance from local church groups to buy toilet paper. 

"Any money that has to spent on medical co-pays will affect the money I have to pay for food expenses and I sometimes have to utilize food pantries," Gill said. 

Without the MoRx program, Gill said many of the residents at Paquin Towers will have to choose between paying for food or paying for medicine. She said it will greatly affect their way of living.

If the program ends, it will affect local pharmacies as well.  

D&H Drugstore Pharmacy Manager Erica Hopkins said nearly 10 percent of her customers use the MoRx program to pay for their medicines. She said if it is cut from the budget, many consumers will take their medications differently or they might not purchase them at all. 

"If it's a blood pressure medication or a seizure medication, if they are not taking it the way they should, their blood pressure will increase and they might be at risk for more seizures. There are a number of different states that could be very dangerous," Hopkins said.

So far, the program extension has had initial house approval as part of a broader health care bill.