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State looks at Medicaid funding, scholarship accounts

Missouri Catholic Conference urges people to contact legislators

Medicaid funding and education scholarship accounts are catching attention early in the new state legislative session.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget allocates funding for the state’s expansion of Medicaid — fulfilling a measure given constitutional protections by voters last year. The state must implement Medicaid expansion by July 1.

The Missouri Catholic bishops supported the amendment, stating that it will provide greater access to health insurance coverage for the working poor and help Missouri’s hospitals keep their doors open, especially in rural parts of the state.

In his state of the state address Jan. 27, Parson committed to expand Medicaid to 275,000 low-income residents. He stated that the federal government increased its contribution to the program for Fiscal Year 2022, so the state could afford it now, but expansion may have a major impact on the budget in Fiscal Year 2023. The governor’s budget recommendation must be approved by the legislature.

Tyler McClay, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said “it looks like the money is there to fund it this year, but the concern is going forward.”

Medicaid expansion will provide access to health care for hundreds of thousands of Missourians, help keep rural hospitals open, and return more than a billion dollars to the state from Washington, D.C. every year, according to Healthcare for Missouri, a coalition of health care professionals and advocates that organized last year’s ballot initiative.

Scholarship accounts

The Senate will soon debate education reform legislation that includes education scholarship accounts that would allow public school students struggling in their current educational setting, students eligible to attend kindergarten or attending school for the first time, or children of active-duty military members to seek alternative educational opportunities.

Known as the “Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program,” the legislation creates a tax credit that provides an incentive for taxpayers to make contributions to educational scholarship organizations that offer scholarships to students to attend private or parochial schools. The program would allow taxpayers to receive a state tax credit equal to the total contribution made up to 50% of their individual state tax liability. The total cumulative tax credits available statewide would be $100 million per year for the first year. The program would make more than 15,000 scholarships available when fully funded.

The Missouri Catholic Conference encourages people to ask their state senator to support the program by visiting bit.ly/3j8FDiv. To learn about the MOCAN, the Missouri Catholic Advocacy Network, and other legislation, visit mocatholic.org.

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