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What's Behind Recommending Budget Cuts Affecting Missouri's Blind?

State Rep. Sue Allen explains Appropriation Committee recommendation for budget cuts to medical benefits for some blind Missourians.

As most people in the state of Missouri are aware, the state faces a massive budget deficit in the next fiscal year of around $500-700 million. However, the state is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget every fiscal year.

The process of getting from a $500 million deficit to a balanced budget is a difficult process. In preparing Missouri’s annual budget, various House Appropriations Committees prepare annual allocation recommendations for the Budget Committee. These recommendations are then considered in total in the House Budget Committee which is charged with creating the state’s annual budget.

The House Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services evaluates spending on state programs which comprise the largest amount of annual spending evaluated by any Appropriations Committee.

To make cuts that would minimize the impact on those most in need, the Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health, and Social Services opened up each department’s “core budget” which is often overlooked. The committee also tracked appropriations spent and withheld by the governor over the past five years to create a trend analysis and to see where programs consistently underspent.

One of the more controversial decisions we had to make was regarding the “State Medical” line item, which affected medical benefits to some blind individuals. Part of this program provided medical payments to legally blind citizens who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid because they have too large an annual income to qualify for Medicaid.

This does not affect blind individuals who otherwise qualify financially for Medicaid or who qualify for other medical care assistance. This cut also does not affect the monthly cash benefit paid to blind citizens, age 18 or older, from the Blind Pension Fund or any of the many other programs the state provides for the benefit of its blind citizens.

A list of all aid programs available to the blind can be found here.

Each member of the House Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services was asked prior to the commencement of the committee deliberations to present the committee chairman with a list of programs which the member would request be prioritized.

Once this recommendation reaches the Budget Committee, all increases and decreases will be open to debate among the committee members.

The State Medical program will be re-evaluated to determine whether it is a goal of the state of Missouri to cover medical costs for all blind Missouri citizens regardless of the level of their income.

Perhaps some of the cost savings from means testing can be used to provide greater benefits to blind Missouri citizens who truly need more help. We believe there may be some federal programs that blind citizens may be eligible for to help ease this elimination.

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John Hoffmann February 28, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I have to think that the fact the Blind Medical Benefits were cut from the budget was not the rub agasint Rep. Allen and the reason for the detailed Post-Dispatch editorial that claimed Rep. Allen "Failed the Test of Decency." It was the fact that no debate was allowed prior to the vote on this budget cut. This appears to have been a backroom agreement between the Republican members of the committee and did not allow the Democratice members to debate the issue or allow from public comment. I can remenber when Democrats controlled both houses of the Missouri Legislature and the Republican minority would complain loudly when similar backroom deals cut them out of the process. Now the Republicans are pulling the same stunts. There is nothing wrong with open debate among committee members and public commnets, but Rep. Allen and others apparently thought otherwise on this issue when they voted to make the cuts just 10 minutes after the item was brought before the committee.

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