Lawmakers Back to Drawing Board for Funding In-Home Health Care

Sep 14, 2017

Missouri lawmakers chose not to restore in-home health care funding for several thousand Missourians on Wednesday.

However, House leaders announced that a working group has been assembled to find an alternative solution.

Legislators had gathered to consider overriding Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to veto a bill that would have provided an additional $35 million for in-home and community-based health care. The veto override vote failed 49-106.

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, argued that health care is important for the most vulnerable population of the society to live an “independent and fulfilled life.”

“With the unnecessary veto, the governor took away independence from these 8,000 individuals, stripped $35.5 million off our local economies and threatened the care provided by our nursing homes,” Lavender said.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, who had sponsored a different funding proposal, said he doesn’t think the bill was the solution to the funding issue.

He said he will be helping to find an alternative solution with members of the House and Senate, including Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said “finding a viable solution to preserve these critical services for disabled Missourians has been, and continues to be, a top priority for the Missouri House and for the General Assembly.”

He said that Fitzpatrick and Cunningham will work “with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers to find a fiscally responsible solution.”

The working group will create a plan in the next three weeks, and after it has been approved, discussion will begin about putting the proposal into effect.

Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, said this could mean a special session in early October. If the representatives fail to solve this issue by then, she said the in-home health care funding issue would become one of the priorities for the state legislature in January.

Democrats expressed their frustration with the outcome of the vote.

“I’m very disappointed that we were not able to override the governor’s veto,” said Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia. “This is going to put a lot of people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Kendrick added that failed tax policy, tax giveaways and special interest tax cuts have put lawmakers into this situation by limiting available funding

“We’re not running our priorities properly,” Kendrick said.

Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said the House failed to get a commitment for a special session, which she said would have given the lawmakers the position to have “an actual dialogue” about the issue.

“We had an opportunity to stand up to the governor as a body and say that we believe these folks deserve home services,” Quade said at a press conference after the session.

Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, also voted to override the veto.

“I’m disappointed that there’s about 8,000 low-income seniors and adults with disabilities who want to remain in their homes and in their neighborhoods and age in place, and they need a little bit of help,” Stevens said. “We have such an aging population in the US, and that trend is going to continue, so we have to start preparing for that.”

As for the working group, Stevens says she is “cautiously optimistic.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” she said. “In the meantime, individuals and families are going to suffer in every community.”

Before lawmakers began discussing healthcare, Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, was sworn into office. She won an election in August to fill the seat formerly held by former Rep. Caleb Brown. Once her inauguration was over, Walsh was embraced by a long line of female representatives, including Toalson Reisch.

“I’m looking forward to working with her in the House,” Toalson Reisch said. “I have known Sara since she had moved to Boone County many years ago, and she’s a very near and dear friend of mine.”

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, horvitm@missouri.edu.