New report: Progress on Medicaid would help working Missourians

As the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry continues to push for a Missouri solution to Medicaid reform, a new study shows that such a solution would benefit the state’s working individuals and families.

Currently, Missouri has not agreed to accept up to $2 billion in annual federal funding to give 350,000 Missourians access to health care. A problem with Obamacare has left these Missourians with few options for receiving health care.

FamiliesUSA, a national health care organization, studied these 350,000 Missourians to see who they represent. They found that 60 percent of these people are either working or have worked within the last year.

“These are hardworking Missourians; people in our communities who we all know such as barbers, hairstylists, grocery clerks, dental assistants and others,” said Brendan Cossette, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. “These people were left out in the cold by Obamacare. But now, our state has an opportunity to help make sure this important segment of our workforce has access to health care.”

An additional 20 percent are individuals who are not in the workforce at all due to being a student, having a disability, living with a working spouse or having chosen to leave the workforce. The remaining 20 percent are unemployed Missourians.

The working Missourians who would be helped by Medicaid reform serve in a wide variety of professions: food service, sales, cleaning, administrative support, transportation, construction, personal care, production and health care support.

“In fact, expanding Medicaid would give hundreds of thousands of working Missourians acces to affordable health insurance,” according to the FamiliesUSA report (link: http://familiesusa.org/sites/default/files/product_documents/MCD_Missouri%20Medicaid%20gap%20and%20employment_web_v2.pdf). “That will create a healthier workforce. A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and that would benefit Missouri employers.”

The report also argues that the additional $2 billion in federal funding will boost the state’s economy.

“The Medicaid expansion will do more than give many Missourians access to health insurance: It will provide needed economic stimulus,” according to the report. “The federal government pays for just over 63 percent of the current Medicaid program, and the state pays the rest. For the expansion, federal funding is much more generous: The federal government will pay all of the costs of the expansion through 2016. The federal share will then gradually fall to 90 percent in 2020, where it will stay.”

In accepting the federal funding, the Missouri Chamber favors a plan that would tie Medicaid dollars to reforms to the state’s welfare programs.

For more information about health care legislation, contact Cossette at bcossette@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

House passes legislation to protect health care access and keep doctors in our state; Senate considers even broader tort reforms

The capitol was full of white-coated Missouri doctors who came to encourage lawmakers to support legislation that would protect access to health care and keep doctors in our state.  Lawmakers showed their support, by taking action on a priority of the medical community: reinstating non-economic damage caps on medical malpractice claims.

On Wednesday, the Missouri House gave final approval to House Bill 1173, legislation that creates a statutory cause of action for medical malpractice and reinstitutes the 2005 caps on non-economic damages abrogated by the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision in Watts.   The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Springfield, is supported by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We support lawmakers’ decision to protect health care access and keep doctors in our state by reinstating these reasonable caps,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan.  “We are also encouraged to see an appetite for common-sense tort reform by House leadership.”

The 2005 caps were part of a bi-partisan effort to bring stability to Missouri’s out-of-control tort system. If reasonable caps are not reinstated Missouri will again face the exact health care crisis remedied by the 2005 reforms.

Rep. Burlison’s bill would limit non-economic damage caps in medical malpractice cases to $350,000.  Non-economic damages are classified as intangible harm, such as emotional distress.  The caps would not keep a plaintiff from being compensated fully for hard costs, such as medical bills and loss of future earnings.

“From an employer standpoint, higher liability costs on health care providers means higher insurance premiums to cover employees.  Since the majority of private health care is purchased by employers, it makes sense that we would support this measure,” Mehan said.

Rep. Stanley Cox, a long-time proponent of common-sense litigation controls, shared this sentiment as he discussed the bill during debate.

“They (doctors) make decisions based on economics and if you can go 80 miles west of Sedalia and practice in a more hospitable environment, you might make that decision,” Cox said.

The Missouri Senate also held debate on medical malpractice cap legislation sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, a Republican from Rolla.  Senate Bill 589 not only would reinstate non-economic medical malpractice caps, it would provide non-economic damage caps for all tort actions.  Another Missouri Chamber priority within SB 589 would reform joint and several liability, so that a defendant would liable for the amount of damages in direct proportion to the defendant’s percentage of fault.  Sen. Scott Sifton, an opponent of the legislation, was credited with slowing down the debate of SB 589, and the legislation was laid over without a vote.  Sen. Sifton is a Democrat from Afton.

For more information on litigation legislation, contact Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of legislative affairs, at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.