Morning Round-Up
9:57 am
Sun July 1, 2012

Morning headlines - Sunday, July 1, 2012

Medicaid expansion program in St. Louis

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act a Medicaid expansion program kicks off today in St. Louis.

Gateway to Better health is a federal demonstration project that expands Medicaid coverage for low income residents of St. Louis City and County.

The 18 month pilot program is fueled by a $25 million federal grant.

Robert Fruend heads up the Regional Health Commission and says the lynch pin of the project is that it funnels money into a network of community health centers.

“They’re the primary and specialty care physicians that manage on going chronic diseases, and really take of our folks on a preventative nature,” Fruend says.   “We think that this is a really good model in terms of spending dollars on the front end in terms of keep people healthy in the first place.”

Fruend says they’re still taking applications for the program, but with a fixed budget he expects to reach the maximum enrollment in the next couple of months.  Residents can sign up for the program at a community health center, and roughly 30,000 people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be served by the program over its 18 month run.  

Clients  will have copays  ranging from 50 cents to around $3 for checkups, dental visits and prescription drugs.  

The long-term funding of the pilot, however, remains in limbo.

Under the Supreme Court’s ruling states can opt out of a planned expansion of the Medicaid system in 2014.

Fares for Metro passes are increased

St. Louis Metro Transit’s fiscal year starts today and brings with it a fare increase for some passes.

Increased fares include monthly passes, which will go up from $68 to $72 and the university semester pass, which will increase from $145 to $150.

Metro Transit Spokeswoman Dianne Williams says the extra cash will go toward paying for rising operating costs.

“The fuel has gone up significantly.  And the cost of vehicle parts, the cost of things made with steel, and we buy a lot of them.” Williams says.  “That’s a significant impact to operating.”

According to Metro Transit passenger revenue pays for around 20 percent of its operating budget.

The increase would leave some fares untouched.

The MetroBus fare will remain at $2.00, the one-ride MetroLink fare will stay at $2.25 and the current $4.00 Metro Call-A-Ride fare will remain unchanged. 

Mark Twain Forest fires are contained

A fire that burned between 550 and 600 acres at Mark Twain National Forest is partially contained.

The forest's fire management officer, Jody Eberly, said Saturday that crews plan to spend the weekend mopping up around the fire's perimeter.

Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon flew Saturday over the burned land in southeast Missouri. He says numerous smaller fires are burning across state.

The soaring heat and lack of rain have Nixon, Eberly and others worried that the state could face a long summer of battling fires.

Eberly says fires in Missouri normally stay low to the ground, burning the underbrush. But the Mark Twin blaze was shooting flames up to 70 feet in the air.

She says that almost never happens in Missouri and requires different firefighting strategies.

On Friday the Missouri Department of Conservation issued a fire ban for all conservation areas.