Healthcare

A top Republican in the Missouri Legislature says an attempt to restore cuts to an estimated 8,000 elderly and disabled people appears to be dead for the year.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said Monday that he received no response from Gov. Eric Greitens about his Oct. 20 request for a special session to deal with the reductions.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Richard told reporters in his Capitol office. “We had no response. I never got a response.”

The fight over health care costs began in February, when the first-year governor announced a plan to raise the eligibility threshold for those receiving in-home and specialty services.

Greitens’ proposal would have reduced health care services to about 20,000 people, but legislative budget writers altered the restrictions so that any cuts would reduce potential services to only about 8,300 people.

Lawmakers eventually tried to avert the cuts altogether by proposing a plan to sweep unused money out of special state funds, but Greitens called the maneuver a one-time gimmick and vetoed it.

After the Legislature was unable to override the governor’s move during the fall veto session, a bipartisan group of lawmakers floated a number of solutions that could be debated in a special session.

One plan would have generated the needed cash by limiting the number of elderly renters who receive a tax break known as the “circuit breaker.”

Under one scenario presented to Greitens, people who earned more than $22,000 would no longer qualify for the credit, which averages about $500 per year. The plan also would allow veterans and the spouses of police and fire personnel to continue receiving the tax break. And, people who are totally disabled would not be affected.

Thus far, the cuts that went into effect July 1 have not resulted in a massive number of people losing services.

According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, of the 1,008 participants who have been evaluated under the new threshold through mid-October, only 30 people have had their services altered.

While that number is lower than expected, Richard said, “One or two is too many for me.”

But, he added, with two months to go before lawmakers return to the Capitol for the start of their regular session and the holiday season looming, scheduling special session becomes a tough task.

“Time is running out,” Richard said. “We tried and did the best we did.”

Greitens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since taking office in January, Greitens has called two special sessions. The first was aimed at luring two factories to New Madrid County by allowing them to negotiate for lower electric rates.

Neither of those projects has moved forward.

The second tightened restrictions on abortion providers. The new law is being challenged in court.

In both instances, Greitens said he forced lawmakers into overtime because they hadn’t done their jobs during the regular session, which runs from January through mid-May.

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