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Governor Signs Medicaid Reduction Bill

Missouri's governor signed into law today legislation that will end the Medicaid program in 2008 and will cut nearly one hundred thousand people off Medicaid later this year. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Bill supporters, mostly Republicans say the cuts are necessary because Medicaid is too costly, making it difficult for even the most needy to find healthcare.

They say few doctors treat Medicaid patients because their reimbursement rates are so low.

After signing the bill, Republican Governor Matt Blunt said it was a necessary step to help balance the budget.

Under the new law, Medicaid will end in 2008 but lawmakers say they hope to replace it with a more affordable program that provides better services to fewer people.

But opponents of the measure say it will hurt Missourians, especially the one hundred thousand people who will lose Medicaid coverage later this year.

Democratic Senator Pat Dougherty.

The governor signed the Medicaid bill as the senate began debating the state budget.

The senate's budget proposal reduces the Medicaid cuts.

Governor Matt Blunt says if the senate's version of the Medicaid budget comes to his desk, he'll use his line item veto power to scale back Medicaid so that it's consistent with the bill he signed into law.

But opponents of Medicaid cuts say it won't save the state money in the long run.

Democratic senator Pat Dougherty says someone will have to pay for providing healthcare to those who lose Medicaid coverage.

The governor says there are ways to prevent such a cost shift.

Blunt says there are other options for Medicaid recipients who lose coverage.

Some lawmakers say the state can live within its means by simply reducing fraud in the Medicaid system.

Senator Pat Dougherty says the legislation the governor signed does little to address fraud among doctors who provide care to Medicaid patients.

The Medicaid legislation the governor signed requires annual eligibility reviews to ensure only those who truly qualify receive Medicaid coverage.

And Blunt says he hopes the department will look for provider fraud.

The legislation that cuts Medicaid takes effect August 28th.