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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri Legislature Passes Medicaid Funding Tax At The Last Minute

Missouri capitol.jpg
Flickr/david_shane
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Missouri State Capitol dome

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill to renew a tax that funds Missouri’s portion of Medicaid made its way to Gov. Mike Parson to sign into law, just hours before the state’s new fiscal year was to begin.

The House on Wednesday approved the renewal of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance tax during the special session Parson called to address the issue. Not renewing it would have cost the state billions in revenue and federal dollars.

House Budget Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said passing the tax was critical to the state’s finances.

“If we do not renew the FRA, then our budget will be out of balance, and it would be catastrophic,” Smith said, asking for his colleagues to approve the measure.

The House passed the FRA on a 140-13 vote. The Senate passed it last week.

Parson warned lawmakers, and the public, of draconian cuts that he would make to the budget if it didn’t pass. But the morning of the House’s final day of special session, he said he expected the legislature would approve it.

“I thought the Senate would find a path at the end of the day. We met with them several times as we went through that process. And the same thing with the House. I mean, I think everyone understands the stakes,” Parson said.

The renewal of the FRA tax on hospitals and other health care providers is usually routine, but the process stalled during the regular session as some members tried to tack on a provision to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict certain kinds of birth control from receiving Medicaid funding.

While neither of those efforts made the final version, the House did pass a standalone bill that would prohibit any public funds from going to any abortion provider, its affiliates or associates.

House Democrats opposed the move and said Planned Parenthood offers many health care services not related to abortion to men and women, many of whom are underinsured and low income.

“They deserve access to the kind of care that keeps us safe, that keeps us cancer free, that keeps us here, with our loved ones, longer,” said Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City.

Aune also said that the health care system for those most in need is already stretched to capacity, and that shutting Planned Parenthood’s 11 clinics around the state would deny people care.

That argument did not persuade anti-abortion rights lawmakers who do not see a separation between the different kinds of health care options Planned Parenthood provides.

“You might say: ‘They do other things. Planned Parenthood does these other things.’ But any college student whose parents send them $100 for textbooks knows that $100 can buy pizza, too,” said Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold.

The bill will not likely move much further. The Senate concluded its special session last week and is not expected to return.

But the measure could resurface next year during the legislature’s regular session, or sooner in some other capacity.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, released a statement Wednesday saying they are going to form the Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection.

That group’s goals include “the continued protection of unborn life in Missouri” and “ensuring tax dollars are spent in accordance with the values of Missourians.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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