[Missouri-l] Mo. Senate panel backs changes to blind benefits
dhuff at moblind.org
Wed Apr 11 09:35:01 CDT 2012
Mo. Senate panel backs changes to blind benefits
By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Blind Missouri residents could have to start
of more than $100 monthly to remain eligible for state health care coverage,
a budget-cutting plan put forth Tuesday night by a Senate committee.
The plan embraced by the Senate Appropriations Committee could represent a
ground with the House, which had sought to eliminate the blind health care
and replace them with a new, substantially slimmed down program. But the new
does not appear to be backed by the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, who
outspoken against any cuts to blind benefits.
For more than 50 years, Missouri has paid for the health care of blind
who earn too much to qualify for the Medicaid health care program for
residents - a cutoff of about $755 a month, according to the Department of
Services. The state also provides a separate, roughly $700 payment to the
More than 2,800 blind residents currently are covered by the special health
The Republican-led House voted last month to eliminate the roughly $30
health care program, arguing that the money was needed to help balance the
and noting that no comparable benefit was available to people with other
disabilities. The House instead voted to fund a new $6 million blind health
plan, funded largely by a tax increase on newspaper publishers.
Nixon, a Democrat, called the House budget cut "dead wrong."
The Senate Appropriations Committee scrapped the House plan, deciding that
unlikely that the newspaper tax increase could pass. Instead, the Senate
would provide about $18 million for the blind health care benefits while
that nearly $10 million of additional funding could be generated by charging
premiums and insurance co-payments.
Senate appropriations staff said the estimate was based on a $600 deductible
a monthly premium of $111 - the same amounts currently paid by many state
for health, vision and dental coverage.
The plan was put forth by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt
R-Columbia, who said it was his understanding that some blind people
the state-funded health care plan could be eligible for Medicaid, which
more than 60 percent of its funding from the federal government. Part of
plan would require eligibility reviews for the state-funded program so that
participants could potentially be shifted to the regular Medicaid program.
Brian Kinkade, the interim director of the Department of Social Services,
agency already conducts annual eligibility reviews for people on the
state-funded blind benefits programs.
The department would prefer to continue the blind benefits program as it is,
"Today they have health care provided, and it sounds like tomorrow they
to pay under the Senate position," Kinkade said.
The Senate committee's plan still must go before the full Senate, and
with the House then would have to be reconciled through a conference
of members from both chambers. Missouri's proposed $24 billion operating
take effect July 1.
C 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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