KCUR News
2:57 am
Tue July 3, 2007

Blunt Signs Healthnet Bill in Kansas City

Kansas City, MO – Governor Matt Blunt traveled the state Tuesday for ceremonial signings of the Health Net bill to replace Missouri Medicaid. Blunt chose the Cleaver family center YMCA on Troost for one ceremony, citing its fitness and day care centers as symbolic of what he called the focus of the new system.

The governor said the new system will emphasize wellness and prevention, avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and trips to emergency rooms. And, he said, it will do so without a tax increase, and at a cost taxpayers can afford. The old Medicaid system, he said, was bankrupting the state, and still had a lack of providers and no consistent primary care.

Blunt said Healthnet will enroll "tens of thousands" who never participated in Medicaid, and will restore coverage to children and disabled workers who were dropped from the program two years ago. He said Healthnet will also restore vision and dental coverage for adults.

The governor was accompanied by Republican House and Senate leadership and other members of the committee that drafted the bill. They said Healthnet will help solve health care accessibility for those covered by raising fees so more physicians will be willing to participate.

A delegation representing the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition held an opposition event outside immediately after the governor's news conference concluded. Spokesperson Megan Peterson said the governor claimed to have "fixed the health care problem," but he was only taking credit for restoring a fraction of the Medicaid cuts he made two years ago.

Peterson, was accompanied by representatives from First Things First, Catholic Charities and the Jackson County mental health system. She said most of the additions the governor touted have not been funded, and depend on future votes from a legislature that may not be cooperative, giving the poor "promises," not care.

A spokesman for the Division of Family Services admitted to an Associated Press reporter Tuesday that the department may not press for full funding as Governor Blunt portrayed it -- at least not in next year's legislative session. He said, "It's still to early to tell how much of the funding we will ask for."