Missouri governor calls special session on Medicaid funding

By Summer Ballentine
The Associated Press
In this Jan. 27, 2021 file photo, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers the State of the State address in Jefferson City. Parson is threatening to cut state spending unless legislators can resolve their differences over abortion and birth control that have held up renewal of a tax to pay for Medicaid.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday called lawmakers back for a special session to work out a deal on a critical piece of Medicaid funding.

Parson said the special session will begin at noon Wednesday so lawmakers can pass a tax on medical providers that draws down a significant amount of federal Medicaid funding.

“Let me be clear, now is a time that demands leadership among legislators and not an opportunity to play games with billions of dollars and millions of livelihoods in pursuit of narrow political interests,” Parson said in a statement.

Lawmakers face a tight deadline to reach a deal before Missouri's next fiscal year begins July 1. Parson has threatened to enact massive spending cuts if no deal is reached by then.

At issue is an effort by some Republican lawmakers to stop Medicaid coverage for Planned Parenthood and some family planning services.

Republican Sen. Bob Onder is trying to resurrect language that cuts off any Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.

Lawmakers passed a ban on government funding for Planned Parenthood in 2019. But the Missouri Supreme Court last year ruled that lawmakers violated the state constitution by making the policy change through the state budget.

Lawmakers also have proposed banning Medicaid coverage for “any drug or device approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration that may cause the destruction of or prevent the implantation of, an unborn child.”

Fighting over amendments by abortion opponents derailed the bill that would have extended the medical providers tax during the legislative session that ended May 14. Without an extension, the tax will expire Sept. 30.

Parson is calling on lawmakers to renew the tax for three more years, staving off another fight over it while he's governor.

His call gives lawmakers the opportunity to block Medicaid payment for abortion medications, including intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill “when those are used to induce an abortion.” Those forms of birth control can prevent pregnancy by stopping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Lawmakers also could pass a bill that would exclude facilities that provide abortions from being covered under the state's family planning services for low-income women.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo on Tuesday tweeted that Democratic senators “will not support legislation blocking birth control for women. Full stop.”

Parson has threatened to cut $722 million from the state budget if lawmakers don't send him a bill reauthorizing the tax by July 1, including close to $182 million in state funding.

The cuts would be widespread across many key state government programs. Some of the largest planned cuts would strip $166 million for developmental disability caregiving, $88 million for nursing homes, and $20 million that was set to pay for school busing.

Every public college and university would lose funding, and there would be $5 million less in funding for Missouri’s A+ college scholarship program.

Parson also would cut $13 million for foster parents and close to $41 million in adoption subsidies.

Many smaller capital improvement projects also would be nixed, ranging from new carpet for the House and Senate to new bathrooms for the Missouri State Fair.