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Missouri’s Sharp Cuts to Medicaid Called Severe

From Reuters

Missouri implemented sweeping cuts in Medicaid on Friday, reducing benefits so sharply that critics called the moves among the most severe in the nation.

The new Medicaid standards trimmed the state’s budget by $231 million. They were championed by Missouri’s new Republican governor, Matt Blunt, to avoid tax increases. The changes are expected to cut more than 68,000 Missourians from the Medicaid program over the next year.

Under the new standards, a single mother of two children is deemed ineligible if she makes more than $350 a month, for instance. Previously, the income line was drawn at $1,050 a month. An estimated 24,000 children are expected to lose their benefits, dental coverage is being cut for adults, and disabled people are losing coverage for crutches and other aids.

An analysis by the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that Missouri’s Medicaid expenditures were below the national norm before the cuts and that the new program was among the harshest “that any state has ever instituted.”

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“It is pretty draconian,” said Marc Cohan, director of litigation for the Welfare Law Center in New York, which filed a lawsuit against Missouri on Wednesday, along with the National Health Law Program in Washington.

“Missouri has made a choice ... to balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” Cohan said.

The suit alleges the state is rushing the cuts into effect and in the process cutting off people who should remain eligible. U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey denied a request for a temporary injunction Thursday.

Missouri, which spends about $2 billion annually in state money on Medicaid, has defended its actions and calls the previous Medicaid level of benefits “unsustainable.”


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