The state’s Medicaid director will present his budget to the Missouri House Budget Committee Tuesday morning in Jefferson City. The hearing is set for 8:15.
During his January State of the State Address, Governor Mike Parson (R) credited former House Speaker and current Medicaid director Todd Richardson for finding $84 million in savings, in the Medicaid system.
“While some in the press are eager to criticize this improved efficiency – or outright misrepresent it – the truth is that this system has been broken for many years and unproductively serving every Missourian who is paying for it,” Governor Parson told a joint session of the Legislature on January 15, in Jefferson City.
Richardson says that savings are important.
“Across the program, you know with both big chunks and small chunks we’ve been working to identify those efficiencies that allow us to deliver a better program,” Richardson says.
Medicaid is a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents with limited incomes. Missouri’s Medicaid budget is about $10 billion, accounting for more than one-third of the state’s $30 billion operating budget.
Governor Parson and Richardson say that savings are important to protect citizens who need Medicaid services the most. Director Richardson says there’s more work to do.
“We’ve got to work together to build a best-in-class Medicaid program that provides for the needs of Missouri’s most vulnerable, but does so in a way that’s financially sustainable,” says Richardson.
Richardson was appointed to his post by Governor Parson and has been in the position since November 2018.
Statistics provided by the state Department of Social Services show the number of Missourians on Medicaid has decreased from 953,000 in August 2018 to 846,000 now. Richardson will likely face some questions on Tuesday from lawmakers about thousands of children who have recently been removed from Medicaid.
The “Springfield News-Leader” reported this weekend that State Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, says thousands of children removed from the Medicaid rolls were likely still eligible for coverage. The newspaper quotes Wood as saying that paperwork for the parents is horrendous and that the state could do a better job of helping people through the process.
Wood is the House Budget Committee’s vice chairman.
Another issue that could come up during the hearing is Medicaid expansion. Governor Parson opposes it, as does Richardson. Director Richardson tells Missourinet he’s focused on reforming Medicaid, not expanding it.
“There will be a tremendous cost to Medicaid expansion and costs that frankly the state doesn’t have,” Richardson says.
Richardson’s focus is on operating a better program that produces better outcomes, in a financially sustainable way.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, also oppose Medicaid expansion. They say it would take dollars out of the classroom, noting it requires a ten percent match for the 90 percent drawdown.
Speaker Haahr has warned that it would blow a hole in the general revenue budget.
But Democrats like House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, support Medicaid expansion. They have said 100,000 children have lost their Medicaid coverage and that it’s an emergency.
The organization “Healthcare for Missouri” also backs Medicaid expansion, citing a recent report from the Missouri Hospital Association and nine other healthcare organizations.
“This new research (the new report) only adds to the growing body of fact-based evidence that Medicaid expansion will not just save lives but could also save taxpayers money. The recent examples of Arkansas, Indiana, and Ohio show three states that have used Medicaid-derived savings to cut income taxes, increase government efficiency and improve worker productivity,” Healthcare for Missouri campaign spokesman Jack Cardetti’s statement reads, in part.
Medicaid expansion supporters also note that eight rural Missouri hospitals have closed in recent years.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and State Medicaid Director Todd Richardson, which was recorded on January 15, 2020, at the Statehouse in Jefferson City: