House panel rejects cuts in drug program

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A House committee rejected an attempt Tuesday to slice funding by about 70 percent for a new prescription drug program expected to benefit about 55,000 older Missourians.

The Missouri Senior Rx Program was passed last September, and the state already has hired employees and a private contractor to administer it. Enrollment starts April 1, and coverage is to begin July 1.

About $68 million for the program has been proposed in the budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.

Rep. Roy Holand sought to cut that funding to $20 million and direct the difference to such existing programs as Meals on Wheels, drug and alcohol abuse treatment and other community services.

Gov. Bob Holden has placed those programs on a list of services to be eliminated unless the Legislature agrees to fund them from the state's "rainy day" savings account.

Holand, R-Springfield, said the Legislature is unlikely to provide the two-thirds votes needed to use the savings account, so he was trying to preserve those programs.

The House Budget Committee rejected Holand's amendment on a 23-5 vote after the prescription plan's executive director said the measure would effectively kill it.

"It would gut the program," Rebecca Mankin told the committee. "It would not be operational by July 1, we would have to redo the whole program's operations."

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