Roughly 60,000 older Missourians will lose state aid to help them pay for prescription drugs starting in July.
But lawmakers hope the cut won’t be permanent.
Seniors who earn less than 85 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $10,000 a year for an individual, qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. That entitles them to state aid for 100 percent of out-of-pocket costs on medications.
Those earning between 85 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to about $22,000 a year for an individual, qualify for a state program call MORx. It covers 50 percent of out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.
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The state’s $27 billion budget eliminates funding for those earning more than 85 percent of the federal poverty level, a $15 million savings that would cut coverage for 60,000 Missourians.
“This is for one year,” said Sen. David Sater, a Cassville Republican. “Hopefully, if we find the money, we can restore the funding.”
Even without the funding in the budget, Rep. David Wood, a Morgan County Republican, is pushing legislation to keep the MORx program alive for another five years. The program is set to expire on Aug. 28, Wood said, which would make it much more difficult to reinstate funding down the road.
“At least if we keep the program alive, it makes it easier to restore,” he said. “I’m not a fan of cutting the program, but we’re in budget times where we have to make cuts.”
Sen. Jill Schupp, a St. Louis County Democrat, called the cut “heartless,” putting the blame for the state’s tough budget situation on bills approved over the years cutting taxes for corporations.
“This is not somewhere we inadvertently landed,” she said. “We got here because of policies we put in place in previous years that put a hole in the budget. And when you do that, you hurt the most vulnerable people in our state.”
Jay Hardenbrook, a lobbyist for the AARP, said the cut is concerning and could end up costing the state more in the long run.
“We fear that this will lead to more Missourians endangering their health by not taking their prescriptions,” he said. “We fear that this decision will lead to greater costs in the Missouri Medicaid program as people deplete their limited savings.”
The cut comes as a standoff between the House and Senate jeopardizes state aid for in-home and nursing home care for 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians.
The Senate passed legislation authorizing a review of special state funds to find excess money that could prevent cuts to the in-home and nursing home care program. House leaders balked at the plan, preferring its proposal to avoid the cuts by eliminating a tax credit for low-income seniors who rent their homes.
The Senate has refused to negotiate, so if the House doesn’t approve the review of state funds, then 8,000 elderly and disabled Missourians will lose assistance.
The state Constitution mandates the legislature will adjourn by 6 p.m. Friday.