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Missouri House OKs Budget, Rejects Medicaid Expansion

Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House has given first-round approval to the state budget for Fiscal Year 2014, while House Republicans beat back three attempts to expand Medicaid.

The first attempt was made Tuesday morning, in the form of a motion to sendHouse Bill 1 back to committee and add $940 million to it for Medicaid needs.  The motion was made by State Representative Jeff Roorda(D, Barnhart).

“We shouldn’t be leaving rural hospitals out in the cold, we shouldn’t be leaving our economy out in the cold," Roorda said.  "This would be the biggest economic boom of any of our legislative careers, make no mistake about that.”

The motion was defeated along a mostly party-line vote.  Then Tuesday night, two amendments were voted down which would have expanded Medicaid by about $944 million. State Representative Rory Ellinger (D, University City) says without the expansion, the poor will continue to rely on emergency rooms as their primary caregivers.

“If you’re not having a heart attack, you’re gonna be given some pills and you’re gonna be sent home…and more and more people are gonna die,” Ellinger said.

State Representative Kevin Engler (R, Farmington) argued that expansion should not take place without reform.

“Why expand a system that’s broken, that even the proponents say there’s 25 to 30 percent fraud in the system," Engler said.  "Why should we expand that when we can reform it and do it right away?”

Engler also recalled his early years in the Missouri Senate, when he voted to pass deep cuts to Medicaid that were later signed into law byformer Governor Matt Blunt(R).  He then challenged House Democrats over whether they'd be willing to cut 300,000 Missourians from the Medicaid rolls if in three years the federal government finds itself unable to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion.  That later led to a very heated exchange between Engler and DemocratEd Schiefferof Lincoln County.

The Medicaid expansion amendments were sponsored byMinority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel(D, St. Louis).  Near the end of the debate he questioned some Republican lawmakers as to whether they used the health insurance policy offered as part of their legislative pay.  He said that it was "incredibly  hypocritical" of them to accept state-funded health insurance while turning down federal tax dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income Missourians.

The amendments were proposed for House Bills 10 and 11 -- they were defeated on an almost exact party line vote. State Representative Chris Molendorpof Belton was the only Republican that joined Democrats in trying to add Medicaid expansion to the state budget.  All 13 budget bills face another round of votes by the full House, which is scheduled to take place Thursday.

Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
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