This week the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) presented testimony in support of HB 1892, the Narcotics Control Act. The bill establishes a prescription drug registry that will allow doctors to check the drug usage of patients coming to them for care. The MCC said there was no “innate right to access prescription drugs” and observed that: “whether a patient needs such medication is a decision to be made by the doctor in consultation with the patient.”
Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have a prescription drug registry, yet Missouri’s death rate due to drug overdoses ranks in the top 20 among all states, with 1,067 such deaths in 2014. Nationally, drug overdose deaths are on the rise due largely to the use of opioids, mainly prescription pain relievers and heroin. The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a report detailing the increase in drug and opioid deaths between 2000 and 2014. See CDC Drug Report to read.
Wednesday the Missouri General Assembly convened for its 2016 session. House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Popular Bluff) set out some legislative priorities in an address to the Missouri House. See this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article for more on Richardson’s address. The new President Pro Tem of the Senate, Ron Richard (R-Joplin), skipped the customary opening speech and just told Senators to get to work.
Ethics reform will be a top priority for legislators. Numerous bills and proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced. Some of the ideas being proposed include: banning gifts from lobbyists to legislators; limiting campaign contributions and requiring a “cooling off” period before a legislator leaving office can become a lobbyist.
House Speaker Richardson is indicating he is not keen on spending large chunks of time on Right to Work. Last year the legislature passed a Right to Work bill but Governor Nixon vetoed it. The legislature failed to override the veto. See this St. Louis Post Dispatch article for more.
In the wake of the videos last summer showing officials of Planned Parenthood talking about the trade in fetal body parts, legislators are determined to prevent such practices in Missouri. Senator Bob Onder (R-St. Louis) has filed SB 644. (See “Pro-life Bill Addressing Planned Parenthood Videos Set For Hearing” article for more details.) The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) will be working to pass pro-life bills like Senator Onder’s legislation.
Over the past several years, Missouri has refused to expand Medicaid despite the offer by the federal government to cover all of the costs. The expansion would enable more of the working poor to gain health coverage. The MCC supports both reform and expansion of Medicaid, but action in 2016 seems unlikely.
Both Republicans and Democrats appear interested in reforming the criminal justice system, including measures that would help ex-felons start new lives after serving their time in prison. (See “Criminal Justice Reform is in Vogue” for more details.)
In addition to considering hundreds of bills on a wide variety of topics, legislators must pass a state budget for fiscal year 2017, which begins July 1. This year the MCC will seek continued funding for services that help women choose life over abortion and assistance for refugees who have fled persecution in other parts of the globe.
These are just a few of the issues the MCC expects to surface in 2016. But each year there are surprises – issues that emerge that were not on anyone’s radar screen at the beginning of the year. Check the MCC Update each week for the latest developments
By a vote of 9-3 the House Committee on Health Care Policy has voted “Do Pass” HB 1430, sponsored by House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), which would protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers. The bill would permit doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to opt out of assisting or participating in abortion, providing abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, or other similar procedures that violate their moral or ethical convictions.
A similar bill passed the Missouri House last year, but did not make it through the Missouri Senate. The bill is expected to face opposition from Planned Parenthood, the Missouri Hospital Association, and the ACLU, as it makes its way through the General Assembly. Stay tuned.
Posted: February 7, 2014
Governor Jay Nixon has stated his intent to pursue Medicaid reform as a high-priority issue during the upcoming legislative session. In a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Nixon said he hopes legislators who opposed Medicaid expansion during the 2013 legislative session will reconsider their position this year, as other states have taken advantage of the offer for federal funds to pay for the expansion.
Legislation to expand Medicaid and to revise the present program was proposed during the 2013 legislative session by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), but met opposition from a number of members of the Republican-led legislature. Interim Senate and House Committees on Medicaid Transformation met during the summer and fall in hopes of providing a more transparent look into Medicaid reform for lawmakers. The Senate produced a report stating they would consider Medicaid expansion only after a “transformation of the entire Medicaid program.” The House panel has yet to produce a report.
The Missouri Catholic Conference supported efforts made towards Medicaid reform last session, and will be tracking this issue in the coming session as well.
Posted: January 3, 2014
St. Louis federal circuit court judge Jean Hamilton has dismissed a lawsuit brought by State Representative Paul Wieland challenging the HHS Mandate, ruling that he did not have legal standing to challenge the law. Wieland alleged in the lawsuit that as a result of the HHS mandate he has been denied the ability to opt out of having coverage in his state-issued health insurance plan for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, which he objected to having included in his health plan and the plan covering his wife and minor daughters. Missouri law allowed individual employees to opt out of having such coverage in their health plans prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The court ruled that Wieland did not have legal standing to challenge the law as an individual and that the proper parties were not named in the suit. Wieland’s attorney, Tim Belz of St. Louis, plans to appeal the ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Stay tuned for more.
Posted: November 8, 2013
This week an interim committee of the Missouri House met to discuss how to reform and possibly expand Medicaid, the insurance program that provides health coverage to lower income Missourians. The committee is chaired by State Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), who last session advanced legislation supported by the Missouri Catholic Conference.
The Barnes’ bill considered during the now concluded 2013 session of the Missouri General Assembly faced strong opposition from legislators who oppose expanding Medicaid to cover more of the poor. Consequently, the legislation did not pass. Unfortunately, it appears that this opposition remains strong as the general assembly prepares for the 2014 session, which opens in January. Click here for a News Tribune report on the recent hearings.
Posted: November 4, 2013
According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, at a recent meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms Club in Moberly, State Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) and State Representative Noel Torpey (R-Independence) indicated that the general assembly is not likely to expand Medicaid in the 2014 session. Senator Schaaf said, “I will stand and filibuster expansion of Medicaid until I can’t stand any longer.”
The practice in the Missouri Senate is to allow free and unlimited debate. It is very rare that the Senate will move “the previous question” and end a filibuster. Stay tuned for more.
Posted: October 24, 2013
Within the Department of Mental Health (DMH) are services for deaf and hard of hearing residents of Missouri. Deaf Services is a long running program that serves 3,500 deaf or hard of hearing individuals yearly.
Deaf Services offers the majority of its newer and expanded services through both behavioral health and developmental disability areas of DMH. There are two inpatient units to help treat needs, one in Kansas City at Truman Medical Center for acute care cases and the other in St. Louis at St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center for long-term or intermediate levels of care.
Elijah Buchholz, director of Deaf Services, said that there is a great need for programs geared toward deaf or hard of hearing consumers who also need substance abuse or psychiatric services.
There are also two newly formed socialized outpatient centers. One at Truman Medical Center and another in St. Louis with BJC HealthCare. Those programs provide substance abuse care, counseling, case management, and other similar services. The programs employ deaf employees who speak to clients using their language and who understand the deaf culture. For those in need of the outpatient services in other areas of the state, Buchholz said there is a tele-health program that will assist them with counseling services.
There are also newly released standards for working with the deaf in mental health settings. All DMH providers have received this information and are held accountable to follow them.
Deaf Services also offers various types of trainings to the public and other mental health services. Training includes Working with Interpreters, Understanding the Deaf Culture, and more.
Posted: September 19, 2013
A committee formed by the Missouri House of Representatives to obtain citizen input on Medicaid has concluded that the program should be reformed and expanded. The 52 member House Citizens and Legislators Working Group on Medicaid Eligibility and Reform held meetings throughout the state this summer. The Committee chairman, State Rep. Noel Torpey (R-Independence), said the report should help to move Medicaid legislation forward in next year’s session.
Expanding Medicaid has come to the forefront in state legislatures in response to a new federal initiative that offers greater federal matching dollars to cover more working parents and lower income single individuals.
The input received from citizens appears to vindicate the approach taken by State Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), who sponsored legislation this past session that included both reform elements and some expansion of Medicaid to include more working parents. The Missouri Catholic Conference supported Rep. Barnes’ HB 700, stating in committee testimony that the bill affirmed two basic principles of Catholic teaching: the need for personal responsibility and care of one’s family; and the duty to help those who cannot help themselves.
In 2011, in the state of Missouri 154,200 people were either blind or had a visual impairment. Rehabilitation Services for the Blind (RSB), a program through the Department of Social Services, provides a variety of services to eligible blind and visually impaired Missourians. The program helped 2,282 Missourians last year.
The program offers vocational rehabilitation, assistive technology resources, independent living rehabilitation, transition services, a business enterprise program, children’s services, employer services and a prevention program called Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment Program or BEST. These services offer training, access to resources, counseling services, guidance, and more.
Rehabilitation Services for the Blind was created to provide a variety of services in order to help those who are blind or have visual impairments to reach their maximum potential in all areas of life.
The criteria for the programs includes having a severe visual impairment or being legally blind; the impairment must create a barrier to employment and vocational services are required.
Anyone interested in the services offered by Rehabilitation Services for the Blind should call 1-800-592-6004.
Posted: September 6, 2013