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Critics say Blunt health plan falls short

(UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Marshall Griffin and Matt Sepic, KWMU

Jefferson City, Mo. – Governor Matt Blunt hit the road Thursday to talk up a new health plan he announced in Wednesday's State of the State address. Blunt wants to replace Medicaid with a program called Missouri HealthNet.

But the governor's critics say his proposal will not help those cut from Medicaid in 2005.

The governor says the new plan is more prevention-focused, offers better choice of providers, and will lower the cost of insurance for those who cannot afford it.

But the Missouri Budget Project's Amy Blouin says while she's glad to see the Blunt taking a new interest in health care, she says his plan is far from comprehensive.

"The 100,000 people who lost health care because of the Medicaid cuts in 2005 don't seem to get anything from this proposal."

Blouin says Blunt should look to his fellow Republican governors in Massachusetts and California and build on the old Medicaid system rather than replace it.

The Legislative Black Caucus is also expressing dissatisfaction with Blunt's HealthNet program.

The group is calling for restoration of the Medicaid cuts the legislature made two years ago.

Caucus Chairman John Bowman of St. Louis County says a study of hospitals within his district shows the number of children visiting emergency rooms rose by around 80,000 after the cuts went into effect.

"The cuts did not provide us with a cost savings, but as we know it was a cost shift, and it's also causing insurance premiums to rise," Bowman said.