Proposal would restore Medicaid to some disabled

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Health-care coverage would be restored or improved for more than 3,100 disabled people affected by last year's Medicaid cuts under legislation introduced Monday with fairly widespread support.

The proposal would restart a slimmed-down version of the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities program, which was eliminated by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Matt Blunt because of spiraling costs.

The revised program is projected to cost $16.3 million in its first year, compared with last year's price of $250 million. Whereas the repealed program served 16,987 people, the legislation by Rep. Chuck Portwood is projected to affect fewer than one-fifth of those, or 3,137 people.

The previous program, sometimes called MAWD or Ticket to Work, had drawn criticism because some people had qualified for the Medicaid coverage by working as little as one hour a month.

But after the program was eliminated, lawmakers heard complaints that their action hurt some hardworking employees, particularly those at sheltered workshops, which employ about 7,250 mentally disabled people to perform basic tasks at less than minimum wage.

Under Portwood's bill, income from sheltered workshops would not count toward the income thresholds used to determine eligibility for Missouri's Medicaid program.

The legislation also seeks to give the disabled an incentive to work more hours by allowing their earned income to offset the amount they otherwise would have to pay out of pocket to be eligible for Medicaid.

The more hours they work, the more money they earn, the greater the deduction. Program eligibility would be capped at 250 percent of the poverty level -- $24,500 for an individual.

"This is exactly what we promised. We said we're going to go in and get rid of the fraud, waste and abuse in Medicaid" and recommend ways to overhaul the health care program for the poor, said Portwood, R-Ballwin. "This, I'm proud to day, is the first reflection of that reform."

Portwood said his bill has a total of 64 sponsors, mainly Republicans but including eight Democrats. It takes 82 votes to pass a bill in the House.


Medicaid bill is HB1742.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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