[Nfbmo] Senate panel backs changes to blind benefits

Gary Wunder GWunder at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 11 16:13:39 UTC 2012

Folks, we still have our work cut out for us. Please write. Today is the
best day to get it done. Write or call.
Mo. Senate panel backs changes to blind benefits


Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Blind Missouri residents could have to start
paying premiums

of more than $100 monthly to remain eligible for state health care coverage,

a budget-cutting plan put forth Tuesday night by a Senate committee.

The plan embraced by the Senate Appropriations Committee could represent a

ground with the House, which had sought to eliminate the blind health care

and replace them with a new, substantially slimmed down program. But the new

does not appear to be backed by the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, who
has been

outspoken against any cuts to blind benefits.

For more than 50 years, Missouri has paid for the health care of blind

who earn too much to qualify for the Medicaid health care program for

residents - a cutoff of about $755 a month, according to the Department of

Services. The state also provides a separate, roughly $700 payment to the

More than 2,800 blind residents currently are covered by the special health


The Republican-led House voted last month to eliminate the roughly $30
million blind

health care program, arguing that the money was needed to help balance the

and noting that no comparable benefit was available to people with other
types of

disabilities. The House instead voted to fund a new $6 million blind health

plan, funded largely by a tax increase on newspaper publishers.

Nixon, a Democrat, called the House budget cut "dead wrong."

The Senate Appropriations Committee scrapped the House plan, deciding that
it seemed

unlikely that the newspaper tax increase could pass. Instead, the Senate

would provide about $18 million for the blind health care benefits while

that nearly $10 million of additional funding could be generated by charging

premiums and insurance co-payments.

Senate appropriations staff said the estimate was based on a $600 deductible

a monthly premium of $111 - the same amounts currently paid by many state

for health, vision and dental coverage.

The plan was put forth by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt

R-Columbia, who said it was his understanding that some blind people
currently receiving

the state-funded health care plan could be eligible for Medicaid, which

more than 60 percent of its funding from the federal government. Part of

plan would require eligibility reviews for the state-funded program so that

participants could potentially be shifted to the regular Medicaid program.

Brian Kinkade, the interim director of the Department of Social Services,
said the

agency already conducts annual eligibility reviews for people on the
Medicaid and

state-funded blind benefits programs.

The department would prefer to continue the blind benefits program as it is,


"Today they have health care provided, and it sounds like tomorrow they
would have

to pay under the Senate position," Kinkade said.

The Senate committee's plan still must go before the full Senate, and

with the House then would have to be reconciled through a conference
committee consisting

of members from both chambers. Missouri's proposed $24 billion operating
budget would

take effect July 1.

C 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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