Senate Budget Proposal Changes Health Care for Blind

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Appropriations Committee was back at work Wednesday morning, less than a day after proposing to modify a program which provides healthcare coverage for blind Missourians. This decision reverses the Missouri House's budget proposal which eliminated the $28 million special health care program for the blind.

The committee's proposed plan would require blind Missourians who do not qualify for Medicaid to pay a $111 monthly premium and a $600 deductible to receive state medical coverage.

Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Shaefer, R-Columbia, said he talked with Governor Jay Nixon two weeks ago and the governor told him his main budget concern was that healthcare for the blind would not be eliminated. Schaefer said he would assume now the governor is pretty happy with the current budget proposal. "I think people are happy that we're not cutting the service as it was proposed in the house budget, I'm glad we were able to hold on to healthcare for the blind," Schaefer said.

Denny Huff is executive director of the Missouri Council of the Blind. He said the organization is not happy with this change. He also said he doesn't know how they expect people to pay the premium and deductible.

Missouri Council of the Blind vice president Deanna Noriega said there's only so much the private sector can do when state or federal programs aren't there anymore. "The people who qualify for blind pension, but not for Medicaid because they're not at the 85 percent of poverty are still poor, just not as poor as some others," Noriega said. She also said to make everyone go to an unsupportable level is not fair.

The senate's current budget proposal would also hold next year's higher education funding at the same level as this year. The legislature must pass a budget by May 11.