Sunday, December 06, 2009

Week 47: Nixon's Grade


The initial pieces of the 2010 legislative session began to fall into place last week with the pre-filing of bills and Governor Nixon throwing his muscle behind a measure that could become his first significant win on healthcare. Forcing insurance companies to provide coverage to children with autism may not only be good policy, but also provide good optics for an administration that wants to be able to say it has expanded healthcare access. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board noted, thousands more children have gained Medicaid coverage since Nixon took office "but that’s not because of anything Mr. Nixon did to lower enrollment barriers. It’s the result of a cratering economy." In addition, there's already growing scrutiny on Nixon's healthcare agenda, simply because he stressed it so heavily during his 2008 campaign. The Associated Press' David Lieb wrote Sunday that despite recommendations of a half-dozen measures to enroll more children in government-healthcare plans, Nixon is balking at any action because of costs. (Spending $47 million would insure 42,000 more people, according to memos obtained by the AP). With the dawn of Nixon's second legislative session approaching, there will inevitably be greater pressure for action, coming not only from outside interest groups, but possibly within the administration. The most telling quote in Lieb's story came from Social Services department director Ron Levy, in a message sent back in July: "We're getting the crap beat out of us for not moving forward now on express lane enrollment ... which we need to do!"

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