Nixon seeks to preserve blind health care program

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

JEFFERSON CITY | Gov. Jay Nixon announced today that thanks to additional Medicaid earnings he is requesting the Missouri Senate add nearly $18 million to the budget to maintain a health care program for the blind.

The program, which currently totals around $28 million, was cut from the budget by the House in order to avoid another year of cuts to higher education. Nixon has repeatedly blasted the plan.

"These additional funds will be available to assist the Senate in fully restoring our health care program for the blind and ensuring that 2,800 needy blind Missourians continue to receive the vital services they need," the governor said in a statement. "This is the right thing to do, and I look forward to working with the Senate to fully restore this critical program."

The House budget included a scaled-down version of the health care program that would only cost the state $6 million and would cover an estimated 600 individuals.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, a Dexter Republican, said the appropriations committee will begin work on the House's version of the budget next week.

Nixon filed two other budget amendments in addition to the one aimed at the blind health care program. One would use a $50 million federal grant to purchase and implement a new computerized enrollment system for the state Medicaid program. The second uses $250,000 from the additional Medicaid earnings to analyze the impact of Missouri's military bases on the nation's military readiness and economy.

During debate in the House over the budget, Republican balked at accepting the $50 million grant. Some legislators saw it as a back-door way for the governor to implement a key provision in the federal health care law -- a health insurance exchange.