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Bill to renew key Missouri Medicaid funding tax advances

June 26, 2021 GMT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators advanced a bill to renew a key tax for Medicaid funding late Friday after hours of debate over coverage of family planning services.

The GOP-led Senate in a voice vote gave the tax bill initial approval. The bill needs another Senate vote to move to the House.

Senators were able to advance the bill after some Republicans joined with Democrats to vote down a proposal by GOP Sen. Bob Onder that sought to cut off any government money for Planned Parenthood.

Missouri already bans any Medicaid funding from being used to pay for abortions. But the Missouri Supreme Court last year overturned another provision in a state budget law forbidding Medicaid reimbursements to any Planned Parenthood clinic, even those that don’t provide abortions.

“No taxpayer should be forced to participate in the evil of abortion,” Onder told colleagues during debate on the Senate floor Friday.

Onder framed his proposal as a test of fellow Republicans’ beliefs on abortion, which GOP Sen. Mike Cierpiot called “outrageous.”

Cierpiot was among several Republicans who raised concerns that blocking all Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, without first getting a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, could violate federal rules and put billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding at risk.

“It is the opposite of a pro-life move,” Cierpiot said. “It is going to threaten funds for the most vulnerable people in this state.”

The latest version of the bill also includes a ban on Medicaid spending on any medications or devices “used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.”

Lawmakers for months have been trying to extend the tax on hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and ambulances, which expires Sept. 30.

They failed to do so during the regular legislative session that ended last month because of fighting over family planning.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson called lawmakers back this week for the last-minute special session. He has threatened to cut $722 million from the state budget July 1 if lawmakers don’t reup a tax on hospitals and other medical providers by then.

Republican Sen. Dan Hegeman, the Senate budget leader, has said the tax itself brings in roughly $1.5 billion. That money is leveraged for another $2.7 billion in federal Medicaid funding.