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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri Special Session On Funding Medicaid Starts, But The Debate Hasn’t Changed

 Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe presiding over a special session of the Missouri Legislature to address the lack of an FRA tax that supports Medicaid.
Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe presiding over a special session of the Missouri Legislature to address the lack of an FRA tax that supports Medicaid.

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Legislature is in special session to address renewing a tax that funds most of the state’s share of Medicaid payments, but the roadblocks that stalled the effort during the regular session are still in place.

The Federal Renewal Allowance is a tax on health care providers. While it is usually passed as part of the legislature’s routine business, efforts to eliminate Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood and some forms of birth control led to an adjournment before a compromise was reached.

The special session called by Gov. Mike Parson that started Wednesday afternoon did not change any of those disagreements. Conservative Senate Republicans indicated they have no intention of backing down.

“If the governor wants to amend his call and say we will have two separate issues, we’re certainly glad to do it. That’s not the case, so we have to take every opportunity we can to do everything we can to protect life,” said Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.

At stake is more than $3 billion in revenue and federal funding if the state doesn’t pass the FRA. It has passed every year under both Republican and Democratic governors.

As adamant as some Republicans are about adding the amendments, Democrats are equally committed to a bill that is free of the restrictions, and they accused Republicans of playing politics.

“I don’t think this is about being pro-life. I think this is about political pandering. I think this is about folks wanting to make headlines over policy,” said Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City. “And I think we are going to put our state at severe risk.”

Unmooring the abortion debate from passing the FRA tax will be tricky in a state where several staunch anti-abortion rights advocates have been elected to the state Senate. But it’s a necessary move, according to women who benefit from Medicaid-provided birth control services.

“No one should lose their birth control coverage based on how much money they make or what kind of insurance they have,” said Kennedy Moore, who's with NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri and is a recipient of subsidized birth control. “Reproductive freedom is for everyone. It’s time to stop the ideological attacks on birth control.”

At issue are certain kinds of birth control like IUDs and emergency contraceptive pills that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Opponents call those methods a form of abortion. Some medical providers disagree.

“Contraceptive prevents pregnancy, including these methods that the legislature is considering limiting. It doesn’t interrupt a pregnancy” said Dr. Elizabeth Allemann, medical director of the Missouri Family Health Council and a practicing physician. “Statements in the law should be true.”

Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, introduced three versions of an FRA bill for consideration during the special session. One is a version that includes just the renewal of the tax, while the other two include the restrictions regarding Planned Parenthood health care funding and certain kinds of birth control.

All three bills were sent to the Appropriations Committee, which will meet Thursday. The House is scheduled to start its special session on Monday.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan is the General Manager of Tri States Public radio. His duties include but are not limited to, managing all facets of the station, from programming to finances to operations. Jonathan grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. He has a B.A in music theory and composition from WIU and a M.A in Public Affairs Reporting from The University of Illinois at Springfield. Jonathan began his journey in radio as a student worker at WIUM. While in school Jonathan needed a summer job on campus. He heard WIUM was hiring, and put his bid in. Jonathan was welcomed on the team and was very excited to be using his music degree. He had also always been interested in news and public radio. He soon learned he was a much better reporter than a musician and his career was born. While at WIUM, Jonathan hosted classical music, completed operations and production work, was a news reporter and anchor, and served as the stage manager for Rural Route 3. Jonathan then went to on to WIUS in Springfield where he was a news anchor and reporter covering the state legislature for Illinois Public Radio. After a brief stint in commercial radio and TV, Jonathan joined WCBU in Peoria, first in operations then as a news reporter and for the last ten years of his time there he served as the News Director. Jonathan’s last job before returning to Tri States Public Radio was as the News Director/ Co-Director of Content for Iowa Public Radio. During Jonathan’s off time he enjoys distance running, playing competitive Scrabble, rooting for Chicago Cubs, listening to all kinds of music and reading as much as he can. He lives in Macomb with his wife Anita and children Tommy and Lily.
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