JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Missouri lawmakers have less than two days to renew an important Medicaid tax before the governor enforces millions of dollars in budget cuts.
Gov. Mike Parson told legislators last week they have until July 1 to extend the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax. Members of the House Budget Committee met Tuesday to hear testimony about the renewal legislation, but as expected there was also a debate about talking funding away from abortion facilities and providers that offer abortion services.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, took up three hours of the four-hour hearing. The bill does not contain any language about the FRA renewal but prevents public funding from going toward abortion facilities, affiliates, or associates. It also goes to say any federal law, act, or order that requires Medicaid funding to pay for abortion services would be nullified in the state. Schroer said this is in reference to the Hyde Amendment.
“I think it is time that we make known that we are going to defend taxpayer dollars, we are going to defend the lives of the unborn,” Schroer said.
He compared part of the bill to the Second Amendment Preservation Act which prohibits law enforcement officers from enforcing federal gun laws and would fine a department up to $50,000 if an office infringes someone’s Second Amendment rights.
“Similar fashion to what we did with the Second Amendment Preservation Act stating, that whatever is going to occur federally that no federal act, law, executive order and so on shall infringe upon the rights of Missourians when it comes to these issues,” Schroer said.
Other members, including Republican Rep. Dirk Deaton from Noel, stressed concern for what this would do for the state’s Medicaid program.
“I think we want to be careful, and we want to make sure that we’re doing this most appropriate way possible and there’s not any unintended consequences,” Deaton said.
Shrewsbury Democrat Rep. Sarah Unsicker said she’s worried this could make Missouri violate federal Medicaid law.
“I’m very concerned about losing our Medicaid funding and we are here to protect our Medicaid funding,” Unsicker said.
Missouri Right to Life spoke in favor of Schroer’s legislation, saying lawmakers need to may sure that unborn babies are not killed with Missourians’ tax dollars.
“We’re afraid of losing money?,” Executive Director of Missouri Right to Life Susan Klein asked. “How much is an innocent life worth?”
Schroer mentioned in his testimony his concern that the Biden administration is working to repeal the Hyde Amendment and he wants to “clarify” the language here in Missouri.
“Biden and Harris both campaigned on repealing the Hyde Amendment which would allow your taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions in the state of Missouri,” Schroer said.
Vice President of Health Equity and Culture for the St. Louis Region of Planned Parenthood warned members during the hearing, this could jeopardize the state’s entire Medicaid program.
“This is a bill that will have extremely negative impacts on people who already face many challenges trying to access quality care,” April Mickens Jolly said. “This very conversation around Medicaid is a form of violence against people of color who disproportionately rely on publicly funded healthcare and other social service programs.”
The state’s Medicaid program is why lawmakers are back in Jefferson City for a special session, to renew the FRA. 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.
Just after midnight Saturday morning, 18 Republican senators joined the 10 Democrats to pass Senate Bill 1, to renew the FRA. 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.”
“By not passing the FRA timely by July 1, you’re impacting the lives of 23,000 very, very critically ill individuals,” Nikki Strong with Missouri health Care Association testified Tuesday. “There’s nowhere else they can get the care other than the nursing homes that are providing care.”
Strong said there are 516 nursing homes in the state and only 17 of them don’t accept Medicaid patients.
HB 2 and SB 1 were both voted out of committee Tuesday afternoon and will be in front of the full House Wednesday for a vote. If Schroer’s bill passes, it must go back to the Senate for approval and there have been no indication Senators would come back to Jefferson City.