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Medicaid committee recommends updating postpartum coverage, information systems

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Ahead of next session, lawmakers on an interim health care committee recommended substantially extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to combat Missouri’s maternal mortality rate. 

The Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection’s second report, filed Wednesday, included several legislative suggestions to expand and streamline the state’s Medicaid program, including upgrades to its computer systems and the creation of an online dashboard to help recipients access information on their coverage. 

Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to one year saw broad support from witnesses and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

Sen. Jill Schupp, who championed legislation last year expanding coverage for postpartum depression, has already filed a bill for the upcoming session to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage. 

“Helping new moms stay healthy will save lives and create healthier homes for children,” Schupp, a Democrat who sits on the committee, said. “Our investment in new moms’ health will pay dividends throughout the life of the child, and it will help Missouri tackle its maternal mortality crisis.” 

Missouri ranks No. 42 in maternal mortality rates, according to the state’s health department. 

The committee’s report encouraged the use of federal stimulus and COVID-19 funds to update the departments of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Social Services’ (DSS) computer information systems, an issue the departments and providers pointed to frequently in multiple testimonies given before the committee. 

It also recommended unifying fee schedules for managed care providers and adding negligence to statutes on abuse in senior care facilities. 

“I believe the recommendations from both reports will help Missouri reach its goals of protecting life and improving health care for Missouri Medicaid recipients,” Sen. Bill White, the GOP chairman of the committee, said. “I want to personally thank my colleagues on the committee and the countless citizens who testified at the hearings and assisted with this process.”

Medicaid
Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection Chair Bill White listens to testimony during a hearing on Oct. 20, 2021. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

Todd Richardson, director of the MO HealthNet Division, told the committee streamlining the Medicaid reporting process through a more robust computer system was one of the division’s top priorities. MO HealthNet’s chief information officer noted the influx of enrollees due to Medicaid expansion while urging legislators to earmark funds for an updated system. 

“I support a more transparent and accountable Medicaid program, and I hope we ensure Missouri’s most vulnerable receive coverage and excellent care,” Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat, said. “As the second report shows, when legislators focus on common sense issues, we can find consensus. I’d like to see more collaboration and focus on real health care problems — as opposed to the political grandstanding and use of wedge issues to restrict women’s access to health care that we saw in the previous report.”

The interim committee approved its first report in September, recommending regulatory changes to the evaluation of Medicaid funding for abortion providers and related entities by DSS and DHSS, which were adopted as an emergency rule shortly thereafter. The new rule allowed DHSS to turn over its inspection records to DSS. The Medicaid Audit and Compliance Unit then evaluates Medicaid eligibility for the provider, a change DHSS officials said would increase compliance with state and federal regulations for abortion facilities.

The rules are under review by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), though White said he was confident they did not violate federal regulations. 

While no Democrats on the committee signed the initial report, everyone but Sen. Bill Eigel approved this week’s recommendations. Eigel said the report failed to cover Medicaid issues he had championed in the past, such as ending payments for out-of-state recipients and increasing state control over prescription costs and enrollee eligibility. 

I hope the General Assembly takes further action to protect the unborn and to protect taxpayers from funding abortions,” Eigel said in a statement provided to The Missouri Times. I will look for every opportunity to partner with my colleagues and members of this interim committee during the upcoming legislative session to achieve meaningful reform to our broken Medicaid program that is costing our taxpayers so much.

The committee was established earlier this year following a standoff in the General Assembly over the state’s federal reimbursement allowance (FRA), which collects a tax from health care providers and matches the funds to pay for the MO HealthNet program. 

Senate leadership formed the committee after a band of conservatives opposed the use of Medicaid funds for abortion providers and gave it the discretion to draft recommendations to continue the “protection of unborn life” in the state.

This story has been updated with Eigel’s statement.