Health Care

Why did thousands lose Medicaid? Missouri Republican leader joins Dems seeking answers

Missouri’s health care challenges

Star readers said their biggest health care concerns are cost and lack of access, especially for those with pre-existing conditions. Missouri faces several challenges on those fronts.
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Star readers said their biggest health care concerns are cost and lack of access, especially for those with pre-existing conditions. Missouri faces several challenges on those fronts.

The Missouri House Speaker says he has requested more information from Gov. Mike Parson’s administration about why 120,000 people — including about 95,000 kids — have been dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls in the last 18 months.

If the answers aren’t sufficient, Rep. Elijah Haahr said, he’s open to Democrats’ requests for a legislative investigation. It would be led by fellow Republican Reps. David Wood and Jon Patterson — who both have health care backgrounds.

“Rep. Wood and Rep. Patterson have extensive knowledge of MO HealthNet (Missouri Medicaid) and the utmost care for the most vulnerable Missourians, especially our children, that extends past partisan lines,” Haahr said in a letter to Rep. Crystal Quade, the leader of the House Democrats. “I trust that both Rep. Wood and Rep. Patterson will continue to ensure Missouri’s children receive the medical care they are entitled to.”

Quade had sent a letter to Haahr earlier this week, requesting the legislature investigate the Medicaid enrollment drop, which Democrats have voiced concerns about since February.

Haahr, a Springfield Republican, said that after he got the letter he “personally requested” an updated briefing on the issue from MO HealthNet Director Todd Richardson, a former Republican House member.

The Parson administration has previously said the enrollment drops are due at least in part to an improving economy, which is decreasing the need for public health coverage.

But Democrats and health policy analysts say that can’t account for the full decrease, given that Missouri’s enrollment drop was the third-highest in the nation last year. They suspect that a computer system switch and outdated contact information for Medicaid recipients may be pushing eligible people off the rolls.

Wood, a former telecom administrator for a Jefferson City hospital, is the chairman of a subcommittee that handles the MO HealthNet budget. Patterson, a general surgeon from Lee’s Summit, is the vice chairman.

“If MO HealthNet’s response to my request for more details fails to adequately answer our concerns or new ones arise,” Haahr wrote, “I will give my full support to Rep. Wood and Rep. Patterson to hold hearings on this issue.”

Patterson, who was appointed by Haahr to the Medicaid Oversight Committee in March, called the drop a “serious problem.” He said he is confident Richardson will get them more answers and said hearings could be warranted.

As a physician, Patterson has found that, oftentimes, patients only become aware they were kicked off Medicaid only once they come in for care.

“You have very poor kids coming off (the Medicaid rolls) and that’s what’s the most distressing,” Patterson said.

The improving economy could explain some of the decline, he said.

“Just by the sheer numbers, that can’t be the whole explanation,” Patterson added.

This story has been updated.

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.
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