Missouri Legislative Session Update - Week 2

Posted on 01/17/21

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Coronavirus in the Capitol and in Nursing Homes
Yesterday evening, the Missouri House of Representatives announced that they will not be meeting next week due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among their members and staff.  Ironically, on Tuesday of this week, newly sworn-in Representative Patty Lewis (D-Kansas City) offered an amendment to the Rules of the House that would have required:  “All members shall follow the recommendations issued by the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Senior Services during a state of emergency relating to a communicable disease."  That amendment failed in a floor vote of 46-105.

On Tuesday of next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bills 42 and 51, which would limit liability for businesses that are accused of practices that may have spread the COVID-19 Coronavirus to their customers.  While the bills seek to shield businesses who unknowingly spread the virus, it would also protect nursing homes who have, through their negligence, caused the severe illness or death of their residents. 

So far, in Missouri, nearly 2,000 residents of long term care facilities have died from COVID-19 and countless others have suffered severe illness.  Unlike other businesses, nursing home residents cannot simply leave if they feel unsafe, and many of them, have not been in contact with their loved ones during the pandemic to report safety issues.

Tell YOUR State Senator to oppose shielding negligent nursing homes from responsibility for the safety and very lives of their residents.

Medicaid Expansion Coming to Missouri
Last August, voters approved Amendment 2 to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of their fellow Missourians as required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by Congress over a decade ago.  Now the General Assembly and Governor Parson are required to implement expansion by July 1st of this year. 

Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) has committed to putting expansion in the State Budget, but it remains unclear whether he will acknowledge the savings to the State that are expected from the change.  Several studies, from well-respected institutions such as Washington University, have shown that by covering Missourians under expansion, which is 90% funded by the federal government, significant savings can be realized. 

For these savings to happen, however, the division that oversees Medicaid, the MO HealthNet Division, must make some changes to the program which is currently configured to cover enrollees differently.  The changes to the program are due to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) in March.  AARP Missouri, along with other organizations who pushed for expansion, are urging the division to make the necessary changes.

Some legislators, from both sides of the aisle, have reached out to AARP to help them understand where the savings will be realized in the State Budget to prevent cuts to other essential programs such as K-12 and Higher Education.  While education does not technically fall under our scope of public policy concerns, AARP was one of the most visible proponents of Amendment 2, and the savings that could be realized by the State were an essential part of our support. 

We are pulling together a group of health policy experts to brief legislators on the expected savings.  Once the briefing has been developed, we will share it will volunteers and partners.

Workplace Retirement Savings
Senator Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) has introduced legislation that would establish a retirement savings plan under the Missouri State TreasurerSenate Bill 298, which is identical to legislation stalled last year by the pandemic shut-down of the legislative session, would establish savings accounts, similar to Missouri MOST College Savings Accounts, where workers or employers could assign a portion of their paycheck to go into investment accounts for retirement.

Currently, eleven other states have adopted some form of retirement savings vehicle for their residents who do not currently have retirement savings options at work.  Working Americans are 15 times more likely to amass retirement savings if they are able to automatically deposit funds from their paychecks.

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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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