Blunt opposes Medicaid cuts sought by House GOP

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt says he did not support Republican legislation that would have forced people off Medicaid by toughening eligibility standards. But he adds that he understands the frustration of Republican lawmakers who made the proposal.

Blunt, while promoting his health plan Tuesday, said that it would be "inappropriate" to remove people from the Medicaid rolls until the state maximizes its use of Medicaid resources by methods such as eliminating fraud.

During this year's legislative session, the Republican-controlled Legislature slightly tightened eligibility standards for low-income adults, effectively removing an estimated 324 people from the government-run health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled. The House passed even larger cuts, but they failed in the Senate.

Blunt, the secretary of state, said in Columbia that he did not favor the House's proposal, but said House members were frustrated because Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's administration did not cooperate with efforts to make the Medicaid system more efficient.

"I am opposed to changing the eligibility requirements until we've done everything we can to ensure we're efficiently spending the Medicaid dollars that we have today," he said.

Blunt made a similar comment later Tuesday while promoting his health plan in Springfield. While supporting an improved eligibility verification and "aggressive efforts to root out fraud," Blunt said, "I'm opposed to changing eligibility requirements" for Medicaid.

Holden campaign spokesman Caleb Weaver contended Blunt has been "walking shoulder to shoulder" with legislative leaders "who have been trying to dismantle much of the health care safety net in this state."

Blunt spokesman John Hancock said Wednesday that, if governor, Blunt would work with the Legislature to first eliminate waste and abuse in the Medicaid program, before looking at changes to Medicaid eligibility standards.

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