Objectors pack hearing room

One of the many signs objecting to Senate Bill 577. The bill was heard at the House Special Committee for Healthcare Facilities April 25.

One of the many signs objecting to Senate Bill 577. The bill was heard at the House Special Committee for Healthcare Facilities April 25.

Parker Willis

After more than 34 hours of testimony a committee has its first bill introduced.

On Aril 25 Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) presented Senate Bill 577, the Missouri Healthnet Bill to the committee.

“Obviously this is a very complex issue,” Shields said. “It’s about providing affordable healthcare to all Missourians. This is not something you can do over night.”

Which is why there was so much controversy over the bill. The committee room was packed to standing room only 20 minutes before the hearing began. There were several objectors to the bill that had signs, but the signs were removed before the hearing began.

“Even the people who are supporting the bill, have pointed out the fatal errors in it,” said Harold Crumpton, president of the Missouri NAACP after hearing nearly two hours of testimony.

Beth Griffin, executive director for the Missouri children, said she was only in favor of one or two provisions of the bill. She said she liked that the bill expanded Medicaid eligibility from ages 18 to 21 for children coming out of foster care.

“This would help transform them into adulthood,” she said. “But we want to cover all kids. We have 190,000 uninsured children in this state.”

Jay Hardenbrook, representing the Missouri partnership for children, said these children aren’t going to go away. He said they are just going to get older and have more expensive problems.

There were also several witnesses representing the elderly and disabled that spoke in favor of the bill in general but had oppositions about ‘comprehensive entry points,’ a term used in the bill.

Denise Clemmons, CEO for Homes for the Aging, said she also wanted to see language proposing reimbursements to homes that accepted patients that require more care. She said it is difficult now to find a home that will accept a patient with a ventilator, among other things.

Others just opposed how ‘vague’ the bill was.

Lawyer Tim Hogan, said he thought the bill gave too much authority to healthcare advocates. He said healthcare should be between a patient and their provider, not an advocate who’s only qualification is an “eight week crash course.”

Rev. James T. Morris from St. Louis just asked the board to have compassion for those less fortunate in our state.

After all of the testimony, which amounted to about 14 witnesses in two hours, chair of the committee Rep. Robert Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) said if the witnesses knew what he and his committee were thinking, about half of the testimony wouldn’t have been necessary.

“There will be a committee substitute,” Schaaf said. “I don’t believe it is economically possible to restore all of the cuts that were made in 2005. But the committee will try to address all of the points made today.”

The committee is set to hear more testimony before writing the substitute that will make it to the floor.