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Examiner
  • Hopes fade for Medicaid proposal

  • Area legislators on Friday embraced the idea of changing the state’s Medicaid program but disagreed on when and how that should happen.



    “As Republicans, we have wanted for 30 years to reform Medicaid. It’s bad insurance for poor people,” Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, said at an Independence Chamber of Commerce legislative update.

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  • Area legislators on Friday embraced the idea of changing the state’s Medicaid program but disagreed on when and how that should happen.
    “As Republicans, we have wanted for 30 years to reform Medicaid. It’s bad insurance for poor people,” Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, said at an Independence Chamber of Commerce legislative update.
    Republicans have large majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, and they have resisted the push by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to expand the program starting Jan. 1, 2014. Cierpiot said action this year is unlikely, and he said that’s appropriate while legislators are “stuggling to get our arms around what to do.”
    State Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, wants the governor’s plan enacted now but conceded, “It’s not looking good.”
    “I think we really need reform, and this is the time to do it,” LeVota said.
    Nixon has pushed to accept the federal government’s offer to pay for expansion of Medicaid to about 260,000 people who lack health insurance but who make too much money to currently qualify for Medicaid. Washington would pay that full cost for three years, and then a lesser amount, leveling off at 90 percent in 2020.
    The legislature is down to its last three weeks of its 2013 session – the Senate takes up the budget next week – and if the Medicaid isn’t included in the budget, the state would miss out on the first year of Washington’s offer.
    “I think the time to act is now,” LeVota.
    Republicans have consistently disagreed.
    “I think next year is the year we’ll do something,” Cierpiot said.
    He said the program needs to be improved so more doctors – dentists in particular – are willing to participate. He said a legislative committee will study the issue when legislators are out of session and will have a plan to look at next January.
    “I think it’s much more imporant to do it right,” Cierpiot.
    State Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, pointed out that expanding Medicaid is a potential to boon to hospitals – they would have less uncompensated care to write off – but said action on that needs to be paired with another issue, getting greater transparency in hospital billing. Citing a recent example from his own family, he talked about a common patient frustration – finding the simple true cost of a given operation or treatment.
    “I really think there’s a great opportunity there, and we need to do something,” he said.
    LeVota agreed on the need for hospital pricing transparency but said the problem lies more with insurance companies. If the General Assembly doesn’t act on Medicaid in time for the changes next Jan. 1, he said, the state will lose out on $900,000 from the federal government. Advocates also have argued that expanding Medicaid would create jobs and stabilize the finances of hospitals, particularly those in rural areas. Federal payments to offset uncompensated hospital care are scheduled to be phased out – though the Obama administration is backing off that some – as ObamaCare envisions coverage for the working poor under Medicaid instead.
    Page 2 of 2 - State Rep. John Mayfield, D-Independence, spoke favorably of the Nixon plan and said he’s concerned that legislators are suffering “paralysis by analysis.”
    “I hope we do look at it seriously,” he said. “I hope to be a part of that.”
     
     
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