Missouri lawmakers working to find ways to lower cost, improve access to health care

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- "I'm very interested in things that we can do to help folks feel like they can access care in an appropriate venue," said Jon Doolittle, President of the Mosaic Medical Center.

Doolittle says the total percentage patients his hospital sees that are uninsured is around seven or eight percent in a typical year.

"What percentage of those uninsured would you estimate would qualify if we were to expand medicaid," asked Rep. Keri Ingle, a Lee's Summit Democrat.

"The vast majority," responded Doolittle. "I don't know that I have an exact answer."

Medicaid expansion has been a partisan wedge issue in the state Capitol, with many republicans, including House Speaker Elijah Haahr, saying it would "blow a hole" in the state's revenue budget.

Currently, medicaid makes up about a third of the state's budget.

Greg Pfister with the Foundation for Government Accountability says not only would medicaid expansion lead to more budget cuts from other areas, the state would be responsible for more people on medicaid.

"If Missouri expands medicaid, those individuals on the market will lose their insurance subsidy and be forced into medicaid," Pfister told lawmakers.

While it's only one of several different ideas the House Subcommittee on Health Care Reform is looking at, Representative Doug Clemens, a St. Ann Democrat, says the potential cost could save Missourian lives.

"This is an opportunity cost for us, and it's something we need to weigh in on the human side of this particular issue," Clemens said.

Subcommittee Chairman, Springfield Republican Rep. Steve Helms says the committee's work is far from over.

"We've had multiple topics, this is one of many, and this conversation will continue," Helms said.

The subcommittee will have a final report to present to the full House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee - which isn't expected until the next legislative session in January.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.