Missouri Right To Life lobbying House to reject Senate bill extending Medicaid tax

(The Center Square) – The Missouri House has three days to adopt a bill approved by the Senate to extend a hospital tax that pays for about one-third of the state’s $11 billion Medicaid program before the new fiscal year begins Thursday.

After 14 hours of debate, including eight hours in caucuses, Missouri senators approved a bill to extend the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) in a 28-5 vote 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

The chamber convened a special session at Gov. Mike Parson’s call Wednesday to extend the FRA but spent three days locked in an impasse over attempts to ban the funding for abortifacient drugs/devices, “contraceptive treatments” and “defund” providers – such as Planned Parenthood – that directly, or through affiliates, offer abortion services.

But in the end, 18 of the Senate’s 23 Republicans joined all 10 Democrats in adopting an FRA extension that doesn’t “defund” Planned Parenthood or deny funding for contraceptives, but does preclude Medicaid spending on drugs/devices “used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.”

Now the measure moves onto the House as its 163 members gather in Jefferson City, some conservative GOP lawmakers say they will attempt to reinstall the bans.

“We must keep our promise to Defund Planned Parenthood,” Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, tweeted Friday.

Coleman is campaigning for the seat held by term-limited Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, in 2022. Wieland filed the amendment to ban Medicaid funding for contraceptives. Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, filed the amendment seeking to “defund” Planned Parenthood.

Neither are in the bill House reps will see. House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, would say Monday what he thought of the bill’s prospects.

“The goal posts have moved and we’re trying to figure out where those posts are,” Vescovo told the Post-Dispatch. “I’m reviewing it now.”

Extending the FRA would allow the state to collect $1.28 billion in hospital taxes to draw $2.391 billion in federal Medicaid funding each of the next two years. The FRA expires Sept. 30, but its extension must be passed by July 4 to be implemented Oct. 1. Before this session, it had been extended 16 times since 1992 without contention.

The breakthrough came Friday night after the chamber’s 11 women senators — five Democrats, six Republicans — met in Sen. Jeanie Riddle’s, R-Mokane, office and found consensus in language ultimately adopted that night.

Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, said he was not willing to risk “funds for 23,000 Missourians in nursing homes who depend on Medicaid funding for the last few weeks or months of life” because some conservatives want to turn a procedural measure into a litmus test on abortion.

After two bills seeking to extend the FRA while banning funding for contraceptives and Planned Parenthood were rejected and the bill ultimately adopted introduced, Onder called it “an embarrassment – a betrayal of our pro-life principles.”

Onder’s amendment was rejected in a 20-13 vote and the bill sent to the House in a subsequent 28-5 vote.

Missouri Right To Life in a statement said it “is very disappointed” in the 10 Republican senators “who voted with the 10 pro-abortion Democrats and Planned Parenthood to defeat the pro-life amendment, offered by Sen. Onder, to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving our tax dollars.”

Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein vowed her organization will lobby House Republicans to restore the bans and target in upcoming elections those who don’t.

Parson is waiting. He reminded lawmakers during a Monday news conference that he has a nine-page list of $722 million in budget cuts that will go into effect Thursday without an FRA extension.

“There will be no back-and-forth after that,” he warned.

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