Health Care

(via Flickr/Jennifer_Boriss)

An Illinois House committee wants to take away a perk for government retirees who get a big break on health insurance.

State employees who work for 20 years pay no insurance premium in retirement. A measure to end that benefit cleared the  House Executive Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, without opposition Wednesday.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees opposes the legislation.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The Missouri House has passed legislation that seeks to both bar and criminalize enforcement of the 2010 federal health care law.

If passed, the state of Missouri would not recognize the federal Affordable Care Act, and any federal official who tries to enforce it in Missouri would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.  Also, any person who is targeted by a federal official seeking to enforce the ACA would have the right to sue that official.  The sponsor, State Rep. Kurt Bahr (R, O’Fallon, Mo.), says the U.S. Constitution doesn’t give the federal government the right to force citizens to purchase anything.

(david_shane)

Mo. Senator accuses state labor department of improperly manipulating wages with unions

A top Missouri Senate leader says the state labor department is improperly working with unions to manipulate wages paid on public works projects. The state calculates an annual "prevailing wage" for various construction trades in each county based on surveys of wages already paid on jobs.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, a Republican from Dexter, said Wednesday that state bureaucrats and labor unions had engaged in what he called "collusion.

On the final morning of its three-day health care law extravaganza, the U.S. Supreme Court wrestled with the question of whether parts of the 2010 federal statute can survive if the justices strike down its central tenet: the individual insurance requirement.

In other words, if the nine justices find the insurance mandate unconstitutional when they rule by June, would that mean that the entire law also fails the constitutionality test?

In its second-to-last argument over the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ponders a what-if.

Specifically, if the justices decide that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting the part of the law that requires most Americans to either have health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty, does that invalidate the rest of the law? And if not, how much, if any, of the rest of the law should it strike down?

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Mo. legislation allows some sex offenders to be removed from state registry

Missouri House members have endorsed legislation allowing some sex offenders to be removed from the state registry.

Several offenses, such as promoting obscenity, no longer would require registration. In other cases, people could petition a state trial judge to be removed from the state registry.

A clearly divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday took up the centerpiece of President Obama's health care law: its requirement that by 2014 individuals have insurance coverage or face a penalty.

In contrast to Monday's dense and technical arguments, Tuesday's session was filled with sharp rhetorical volleys and clever analogies. Here are some of the more telling exchanges between the lawyers and the high court justices.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

Two rallies in Jefferson City today each called for the repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and for employers to have the right to not provide coverage for birth control.

Several hundred people attended the rally held at the State Capitol, led by several religious leaders.  Maggie Karner with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod told the crowd that President Obama’s birth control mandate is an attack on religious freedom.

“This debate is simply about us being forced to pay for products and services that are contrary to our religious beliefs, and we cannot be expected to check our faith at the door," Karner said.

The U.S. Supreme Court gets to the heart of the health care arguments Tuesday. Almost exactly two years after Congress passed the Obama health care overhaul, the justices are hearing legal arguments testing the constitutionality of the so-called health care mandate — so-called because those words actually do not appear in the law.


Does a federal law stretching back to 1867 bar the Supreme Court from deciding on the merits of the administration's health law right now?

The court on Monday heard the first arguments in a historic three-day session that could decide the fate of the Obama administration's signature domestic achievement.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

As the second anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act approaches, a top surrogate of President Obama says the law will survive political and constitutional challenges to have a third anniversary.

The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was in St. Louis on Monday, part of a coordinated effort by President Obama and his surrogates to answer criticisms of the law.

The John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis got bipartisan praise on Wednesday for addressing customer service and equipment sterilization issues that have plagued it for nearly two years.

Here's a brief recap of those problems:

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Shimkus on Obama's State of the Union address

President Barack Obama delivered an election-year message to Republicans: Game on.

The GOP - in Congress and on the campaign trail - signaled it's ready for the fight.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama issued a populist call for income equality that echoed the Occupy Wall Street movement. He also challenged GOP lawmakers to work with him or move aside so he could use the power of the presidency to produce results for an electorate uncertain whether he deserves another term.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Mayer hopes federal health care law among first debated in Mo. Senate this year

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says she is “glad” the Supreme Court will hear arguments over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

(via Mercy)

A "first-of-its-kind in the country" virtual care center" in Chesterfield is just one part of a plan announced by Mercy Tuesday to invest $2.4 billion into the St. Louis area.

The care center and additional investment are portions of a $4.6 billion all-Missouri health care investment initiative from Mercy, designed to distribute the investments over the next eight years.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

A federal appeals court will hear arguments this fall on a lawsuit by Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder challenging the new federal health care law.

Kinder filed suit as a private individual challenging the federal law on several points. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in April, ruling that Kinder did not have legal standing to bring many of the claims and that others were not ripe for judicial review.

(via Flickr/rosmary)

Reporting from KCUR's Elana Gordon used in this report.

An interim state senate committee is trying to figure out whether, and, if so, how Missouri should create a state health exchange. 

During the their first public hearing on the issue yesterday, Mark Sergener, an insurance agent from St. Joseph, testified against creating such an exchange, siting concerns over how insurance carriers and coverage options would be affected.

Flickr/Tony the Misfit

Missouri's Amish population on the rise

Missouri has the fourth-highest Amish population growth rate in the country. Between 2009 and 2011, the Amish population grew by 15 percent, according to Donald Kraybill at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

Kraybill says that the population boom is fueled by large family size, high retention rates and immigration.

Missouri is attractive to Amish settlers for a number of reasons, Kraybill says.

(St. Louis Public Radio)

Officials from 21 states have filed a court document supporting a lawsuit by Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder challenging the new federal health care law.

A federal judge previously dismissed Kinder's lawsuit, and that decision is on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  Kinder says eight of those 21 states are within the 8th Circuit.

(via Flickr/CarbonNYC)

About 20 percent of seniors and people with disabilities will lose prescription drug coverage because of cuts in the Illinois state budget.

State officials are sending letters to 43,000 participants saying they won't qualify for "Illinois Cares Rx" as of Sept. 1. Those who are still enrolled will pay more out of pocket for their prescriptions.

(via Flickr/rosmary)

Missouri now has a law on its books allowing it to join with other states in ignoring requirements of the new federal health care law. But the Missouri statute may never have much of an effect, because it requires Congress to first sign off the creation of the multistate health care compact.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday allowed the Missouri legislation to become law without his signature.

(via Flickr/rosmary)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky used in this report.

Illinois had offered health insurance coverage to all children. But now there's an income cap to get the state-backed coverage - critics call it shortsighted.

As the name "All Kids" suggests, all children were eligible, but as of July 1, only families within 300 percent of the poverty level can apply.

That's an income cap of $67,000 for a family of four.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Flooded Poplar Bluff Hit with More Rain

The southern Missouri town of Poplar Bluff endured another night of torrential rain, this time dropping another two inches of water onto already saturated ground.

 The Black River levee that protects the town's low-lying neighborhoods survived Tuesday night. The earthen wall was breached yesterday south of town, which flooded farmland, but released pressure within city limits.

(via Flickr/CarbonNYC)

The Missouri Senate has passed legislation extending several health care taxes that help generate about $3 billion annually for state's Medicaid program.

The special taxes are levied on such things hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies. They are used to draw down federal Medicaid money, which is then distributed to health care providers through various programs.

Missouri's health care taxes are to expire Sept. 30.

(Official Portrait, Missouri Attorney General's office)

Updated 4:35 p.m. April 11, 2011 with comment from Jones and Tilley.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says Congress overstepped its constitutional powers under the commerce clause when it mandated that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Koster says he filed a document (see below) Monday with a federal appeals court supporting a Florida lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law.

(Via Flickr/Rosemary)

Today is the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s health care reform law. Despite threats to repeal the law, Illinois’ top insurance regulator said people are better protected and covered under the law.

After one year of being in effect the law has managed to round up plenty of support but also plenty of disdain.

(Official Portrait, Missouri Attorney General's office)

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says the federal health care law's legal fate is still uncertain.

Koster's statement comes in response to three Republican officials who asked him whether he thought the law could be enforced in Missouri.

Two federal judges upheld the health care overhaul. A third struck down the insurance requirement, and a fourth ruled the entire law is unconstitutional. Appeals courts will consider those rulings.

  • A winter weather advisory is in effect for the St. Louis region until 6 p.m. Thursday evening. Heavy snow fell overnight in St. Charles County, Northern St. Louis County, St. Louis City and Madison County, Il. The National Weather Service says more snow is expected throughout the day. Some places in the St. Louis region might see 12 inches of snow by the time the snow stops.
  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon proposed flat funding for public schools and cuts to colleges in his annual State of the State speech. In his address last night, the Democratic governor acknowledged that "times are tough" and he said that even modest job gains are cause for celebration. Nixon put forth a plan to slightly shrink the state's spending, shedding several hundred state workers and privatizing some of their functions. He proposed a $23.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
  • Missouri lawmakers are urging Attorney General Chris Koster to challenge the federal health care law. The Republican-led Senate  passed a resolution Wednesday asking the Democratic attorney general to either file his own lawsuit, join a suit by other attorneys general or join a suit filed by Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. A similar resolution was passed last week by Missouri's Republican-led House of Representatives. Koster's spokeswoman has said only that the office is monitoring the situation. The Missouri legislative action comes as Republicans in charge of the U.S. House are attempting to repeal the federal health care law enacted last year by President Barack Obama. That effort is not expected to receive support in the U.S. Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats.

(Mo. Atty. General's Office)

Missouri lawmakers are urging Attorney General Chris Koster to challenge the federal health care law.

The Republican-led Senate passed a resolution Wednesday asking the Democratic attorney general to either file his own lawsuit, join a suit by other attorneys general or join a suit filed by Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

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