Debate over birth control, funding abortion facilities not over as important Medicaid tax awaits House vote

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Progress made, but the fight over birth control could still derail that important tax on healthcare providers funding Missouri’s Medicaid program.

Early Saturday morning, a bipartisan group of Senators agreed to extend the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax. Currently, contraceptives are covered under Medicaid, but some Republican House members could possibly change that.

The FRA is paid by providers like hospitals and brings in $1.6 billion for MO HealthNet. The federal government then nearly doubles the tax, bringing in a total of almost $4 billion for Medicaid.

Lawmakers were called back to Jefferson City last Wednesday for a special session to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax. The tax is paid by healthcare providers like hospitals and brings in $1.6 billion for MO HealthNet. The federal government then nearly doubles the tax, bringing in a total of almost $4 billion for Medicaid.

“I’m really happy with the version the Senate is giving to the House today,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield said.

Just before midnight Friday, a new substitute was perfected. It was nearly a clean FRA bill with a three-year extension and no language about defunding Planned Parenthood or abortion providers. There is language in the legislation that prohibits abortifacients, but it doesn’t specify them like previous versions. Instead, it says “any abortifacient drug or device that is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.”

Quade said it’s because of a bipartisan group of women Senators on both sides of the aisle that contraception is still covered under Medicaid.

“It was those women sitting down spending six plus hours together trying to figure out the best course forward, so we were able to pass the FRA, but we weren’t going to be restricting birth control,” Quade said. “The bipartisan women were able to be the adults in the room and especially when we are having a conversation about birth control.”

One of the first versions of Senate Bill 1 would prevent some contraceptives like Plan B and IUDs from being covered under Medicaid. It also would restrict abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood, from receiving funding. After 14 hours of debate Friday, 18 Republican senators joined the 10 Democrats to pass the renewal.

Quade said she believes there are members that will try to add the language about contraceptives and abortion facilities back into the bill.

“There are folks in the House that want to ban IUDs, birth control and I have no doubt that will be a topic of discussion,” Quade said. “I also expect a conversation around the Planned Parenthood funding in the budget that we’ve had for many, many years.”

Rep. Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, said the GOP party isn’t looking to bar birth control for women on subsidized healthcare.

“It’s just simply not true, the Republican majority is not wanting to ban contraception,” Coleman said. “There was a look at making sure that abortion inducing drugs are not going to be funded.”

Instead, some Republicans to prevent money from going towards abortion services and facilities.

“I’m excited to hear that there is a commitment to making sure we are working towards defunding Planned Parenthood,” Coleman said. “We have to pass the FRA and we also have to protect pro-life interest in this state.”

Gov. Mike Parson gave a deadline to lawmakers to renew the tax by July 1 or else the state will face more than $722 million in budget cuts. One of the departments that would be hit the hardest by the restrictions is education.

“If this bill ends up going back to the Senate, I think a lot of folks are going to be very upset,” Quade said. “Obviously, the governor has stated that he’s going to be upset by that, but you never know because here we are three days out and it’s not done yet.”

Coleman said the Republican caucus is committed to making sure the FRA passes, but members are working to find a way to stop funding Planned Parenthood. She said it could be in the form of amending the Senate bill or passing their own legislation in the House.

“We are ensuring that our social safety net programs have the funds that they need to be able to continue to operate,” Coleman said.

Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, filed three bills Monday in the House, two of which address prohibiting public money from funding abortion facilities.

House Bill 1 makes it unlaw for public funds to go to abortion facilities or to any affiliate and prohibits benefits under MO HealthNet from a provider of these services.

House Bill 2 is similar but requires Missouri Department of Social Services to revoke or suspend any contract with a provider that offers abortion services.

House Bill 3 is about vaccine passports. It prohibits an entity from requiring COVID vaccine passports to use transportation systems like buses, air travel, cabs or limousine services. The legislation still allows businesses to use screening protocols.

Hearings for this legislation will take place Tuesday morning in the Capitol. Representatives plan to vote Wednesday on SB 1.

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