What’s Happening Report: January 20, 2020

If we were having coffee, I would talk with you about the different interpretations of facts that have led to Missouri’s leadership failing to address, or even recognize, the crisis facing tens of thousands of Missouri families.

The fact is that over 130,000 people have lost access to Medicaid in the past 2 years, including nearly 5,000 children in December. We have had rural hospitals close. Applications for Medicaid are up by about 25% over the same period in 2018.

I have heard anecdotes about families who have lost Medicaid coverage while they still qualify. I do not know how many people who were dropped from the rolls and then added back on because the Department does not share that data.

Senator Andrew Koenig said last week that “nobody was dropped from Medicaid who still qualifies for Medicaid.” I do not know the reasons people were dropped from Medicaid because the Department does not share that data.

Governor Parson last week cited a strong economy as the reason Medicaid rolls have dropped and congratulated the state Medicaid director for saving money on the program. I do not know how many people were dropped from Medicaid because they now have jobs, or whether those new jobs come with healthcare benefits, because the Department does not share that data, if it is collected at all.

Last week, I highlighted a number of bills that were moving forward.. I want to update you on the status of these bills:
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Rules will heard SJR 38, which will overturn the redistricting provisions of Amendment I (Clean Missouri). While the Legislature can’t overturn this on its own, it can force a vote at the ballot box later this year in an attempt to reverse the redistricting provisions of Clean Missouri. 72% of voters in the 91st District supported Clean Missouri in 2018, and I believe they know what they were voting for. A hearing was conducted and the committee will vote on it.

On Tuesday, the Senate General Laws committee will hear SB 575, which makes it harder for victims of asbestos exposure to sue the manufacturer. This was voted out of committee on January 16 and will move to the Senate floor.

On Monday, the House General Laws Committee will hear HB 2033 related to the Grain Belt Express. This bill will prohibit utility companies from using eminent domain to put up transition lines, which are planned to be installed to transport wind energy. This was voted out of committee on Tuesday and will move to the House floor.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary committee will hear HB 1604, which allows police officers leeway to live outside the city where they are on the police force. This is set to be voted out of committee on Tuesday.

As of this writing, the only committee I have scheduled this week is Children and Families, which meets on Tuesday at noon. This week we will vote on HB 1411, which removes the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse civil claims. We will also hear HB 1306 and HB 2065, lowering the tax rate of menstrual products, and HB 1727, requiring children to wear life vests on lakes and rivers until they are 12 years old.

While it is not yet scheduled, I fully expect the Rules committee to meet on Wednesday or Thursday.

I do not usually comment on legislation that has not yet been assigned to committee, but HB 2044 has garnered a lot of attention, even national attention. This bill requires libraries, in addition to their appointed boards, to have a board to oversee “age inappropriate sexual material” and order it removed from the library. I strongly oppose this bill and will oppose it if it comes to the floor. If you feel strongly about any bill that has been introduced, you can write to the sponsor of the bill and copy the Speaker about your feelings on the bill.
When I walked into my office last Monday, Abby (my intern from Mizzou) told me that the Senate Seniors, Families and Children committee would be hearing 2 bills I am concerned about on Wednesday: SB 524 and SJR 32. SB 524 makes Medicaid a block grant program, which means we get a set amount of money for Medicaid and that increases only with inflation, regardless of how many people are on the program.

Last week I filed HB 2158 related to the drug utilization review board; HB 2159 related to regulating tobacco products; and HB 2160 requiring the Department of Revenue to add information about tax credits to its annual report.
My office has published a consumer guide but will not be sending it to the district. We have had a small number printed to make available to constituents, please contact my office if you would like a copy. The consumer guide is available through my website from the “District Publication” button.

I am working to build a coalition of people with disabilities in my district. If you have a disability and would like to help advise me on disability issues, please let me know. The concept of “nothing about us without us” is important to me and needs to be part of all policy making, especially relating to people with disabilities.

Late last week, I was made aware of a proposed Federal regulation that threatens Medicaid funding in Missouri. Medicaid funding is a large share of our budget, and I believe this could impact more than $1 billion. I commented on the proposed rule here; comments are due on or before February 1. This is the comment I plan to submit:

I am very concerned with the proposed “fiscal accountability” rule, especially how it targets state funding streams for Medicaid. Over the past two years, Missouri has reduced the number of children on Medicaid by over 100,000; hospitals are now providing many these children with uncompensated care when they need care. Our current funding mechanism ensures hospitals will still receive some payment to reimburse services rendered, and I understand that the proposed rule would significantly change this structure.

I am also concerned with how the rule addresses healthcare taxes. In 2012, over 50% of our state Medicaid funding came from healthcare taxes, and this rule would have a terrible impact by changing these healthcare taxes. If this rule passes, we may have to cut money for other things like schools and transportation.

I urge the Department to rescind this rule and to gather more data and consult with states before re-submitting it.

Late last week, I was made aware of a proposed Federal regulation that threatens a substantial amount of funding in Missouri.

Nancy and I will be in the office Monday-Thursday through session. If you are in the Capitol, please contact Nancy to arrange a meeting–I welcome walk-ins, but may not be available to meet. You may call at 573-751-1285 or e-mail at sarah.unsicker@house.mo.gov.

I enjoy opportunities to meet with people in the community and participate in local events. It’s one of the best parts of my job!

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

Representative Sarah Unsicker
91st District