JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Democrats in the Missouri House have filed more bills, this time working towards key pieces of their health care agenda. That legislative agenda outlined on Monday afternoon includes improved health care access and outcomes.

The bills filed as part of the Democrats health care package include creating new options for obtaining health insurance, restoring prescription drug benefits for the elderly, preventing and treating opioid addiction, addressing maternal mortality, and protecting medical options for victims of sexual assault.

“All Missourians deserve access to affordable health care, but access is just one step toward a healthier Missouri,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade. “There are many particular public health issues that require greater attention to improve outcomes and lives. With our health care agenda, House Democrats are working to bring more focus to these issues.”

To that end, HB 802, filed by Rep. Kip Kendrick, would revive an expired portion of the Missouri Rx program. The legislation aims to restore the access to affordable prescription drugs that many senior citizens lost two years ago when the General Assembly allowed a portion of the Missouri Rx program to expire.

“Allowing Missouri Rx to expire for thousands of Missourians was a clear-cut case of legislative malpractice by the majority party,” Kendrick said. “We can’t leave the Missourians who counted on this program to access affordable medications waiting another year for lawmakers to act.”

Rep. Peter Merideth has filed HB 187. The legislation that would credit a public health insurance option for Missourians who don’t get coverage through their employers.

The bill would create the Missouri Care Plan to allow Missourians who don’t qualify for MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, to purchase coverage through the program.

“This gives Missouri consumers another option in the marketplace for obtaining health insurance,” Merideth said. “Since the consumer pays, it won’t increase operating costs, but having more Missourians insured will save taxpayers money in the long term.”

Hb 664, filed by Rep. Sarah Unsicker, would require the state health department director to appoint a multidisciplinary board to study maternal mortality and recommend data-based solutions.

HB 800, filed by Rep. Ian Mackey, would establish the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act. Under the bill, medical personnel treating a woman following a sexual assault would be required to offer her the option of taking emergency contraception, if she so chooses.

“The CARE Act will reduce pregnancies resulting from rape by ensuring women have access to emergency contraception following a sexual assault,” Mackey said. “If women are given this option immediately after a rape, it makes it far less likely they’ll need to consider more serious options, such as abortion, later on.”

House Democrats also filed an array of bills to address the opioid crisis.

Rep. Cora Faith Walker filed HB 707, establishing a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum filed HB 642 to require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish state-level regulations that are consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines governing the prescribing of opioids.

“Enhanced regulation for prescribing opioids will work in conjunction with a statewide PDMP and the new, voter-approved medical marijuana laws to address the opioid epidemic and provide Missourians with quality, non-addictive pain management options,” Appelbaum said.

HB 553, sponsored by Rep. Martha Stevens, would require the health department to establish a pilot program offering free sterile needles and syringes in exchange for new items as a means of reducing the spread of disease among intravenous drug users.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.