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GOP Medicaid alternative supported in Missouri hearing

Updated: 2013-03-26T00:25:37Z

By DAVID A. LIEB

The Associated Press

— A Republican alternative to President Barack Obama’s envisioned Medicaid expansion won support Monday from Missouri medical and business groups, though some legal experts predicted it never would pass muster because it doesn’t cover enough lower-income adults.

The GOP proposal in Missouri is one of several being pursued in states that seeks to reap the full financial benefit of Obama’s 2010 health care law without fulfilling all of its requirements.

Most notably, the plan put forth by Missouri Rep. Jay Barnes would add fewer adults to the Medicaid rolls than called for under the federal law while still expecting the federal government to provide full funding – something the Obama’s administration has said it cannot do.

Barnes’ bill also would remove thousands of children from Medicaid, cover recipients through competitively bid managed care insurance policies and provide people cash incentives for holding down their health care expenses.

The legislation “uses the leverage Missouri currently has with the federal government to transform Missouri Medicaid into the most market-driven system in the entire country,” Barnes said Monday while outlining his bill to a House committee that he leads. He said the panel would vote next week on the measure.

Representatives of medical clinics, hospitals and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry voiced support for Barnes’ plan.

Officials from those same groups have stood by Gov. Jay Nixon and other Democrats as they pushed for the full Medicaid expansion called for under the federal law. But those plans have been defeated by Republican-led committees.

Advocates for Medicaid expansion said the Republican alternative was better than nothing.

But two legal experts who testified later said Barnes’ proposal is unlikely to be blessed by the federal government.

“The odds are very stacked against getting any of this approved,” said Joel Ferber, of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

In December, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said states couldn’t get full federal funding unless they fully complied with the law. But Barnes believes the federal government could reconsider that.

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