JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Some Missouri senators want to give the Department of Social Services the ability to block abortion providers from Medicaid funding for unethical behavior.
After a special session over the summer to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA), the tax from health care providers that funds Missouri’s Medicaid program, Senate leaders formed a committee to address some members’ concerns over Medicaid funds going to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
The Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability and Taxpayer Protection met for a third time Thursday since July. The focus during the hearing was to discuss a committee report that made changes to the state’s Medicaid system. Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, is the committee chairman and he read the six-page report.
“The state has the authority in Medicaid programs to establish qualification standards for Medicaid providers and to take action against providers that fail to meet those standards,” White said.
One of the proposals would allow joint investigations into Medicaid providers from the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). This regulatory proposal would need to be approved by members of the committee and then sent to the department.
“The committee urges DSS and DHSS to collaborate in modifying and expanding the existing rules to incorporate consideration by DSS of any state law,” White said.
“These violations of state law may include failure to ensure informed patient consent, failure to retain medical records, failure to cooperate with DHSS during an investigation, failure to ensure adequate facilities and sterilized equipment, and failure to provide required printed materials to women referred to an out-of-state abortion facility.”
White and other members are asking DSS and DHSS to draft emergency rules and put them into effect as soon as possible. Under this change, DSS would be able to consider revoking or denying a license based on DHSS reports.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, is concerned the language could affect more health care providers than what’s intended.
“If this is a backdoor attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, I do worry about the impact it would have on health care access,” Arthur said. “It doesn’t seem like there’s solution for who would feel that gap.”
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Couer, told the committee she’s worried the investigations could cause a gap in health care coverage for Missourians.
“I’m concerned about what we are pushing ahead and trying to move forward quickly in a process that ends up perhaps taking away necessary healthcare from our recipients,” Schupp said.
“I’m not sure how that’s beneficial to the state or to the recipient. I think this has the intention of allowing DSS to have more control without having to do their own investigation.”
One proposed law change in the report allows the state to deny or revoke Medicaid funding to MO HealthNet providers, like abortion facilities which in Missouri is only Planned Parenthood, for unethical behavior.
“That Missouri has an interest in protecting unborn children throughout pregnancy and ensuring respect for all human life from conception to natural death,” White said.
This law change would require approval from the General Assembly when members return in January.
Arthur said she can’t support the language because she’s worried it could affect the entire state’s Medicaid funding.
“Until there is that assurance that we are in compliance, I think we are taking a gamble that I’m not comfortable with,” Arthur said.
Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using Medicaid funds for abortions. Another key part of the proposal means if an abortion facility, like Planned Parenthood, fell out of compliance in another state, Missouri could force the location in the Central West End in St. Louis to close.
White said members are expected to sign off on the report in the coming days with the report being sent to the departments by early next week.
The committee will meet again Oct. 4 to hear from MO Healthnet about transparency issues.