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MO lawmakers vote to make group health insurance easier

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By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Missouri lawmakers sent the governor legislation Wednesday that would make group health insurance easier to get.

The bill cuts the minimum number of people needed to get group coverage from 100 to 50. Supporters say it would give more people access to health care; the plan received a 31-0 vote Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Goodman (R-Mount Vernon) said the measure is one of the most important proposals lawmakers will consider this session.

The Department of Insurance also would be allowed to exempt insurers that cover both small and large businesses from certain rate restrictions.

Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau) said the plan also represents a shift; that for too long lawmakers have tried to get more people enrolled in government programs rather than making it easier for private businesses to provide private insurance.

He said rather than "investing all our resources and focusing on how we can get more and more people on the public rolls," the bill would use "market principles and forces" to expand health care access.

Earthworm Farming

Also on Wednesday, lawmakers signed off on giving government assistance to earthworm farmers. Raising earthworms in controlled environments is a growing business in Missouri.

The worms' waste, called castings, is used in organic farming in place of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.

If Governor Matt Blunt signs the bill, worm farmers would be eligible for some of the same below-market loans that other farmers already can get.

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