The Missouri Legislature has one of those rare golden opportunities to actually make a difference for the state when they enter the special session of the Legislature in September. Gov. Matt Blunt this week said he was willing to restore some health care programs for the needy if the legislators, in turn, would toughen laws against fraud by health care providers.
Let me tell you right here and now, if the legislators miss this opportunity to put some strong teeth into the Medicaid system, they should be held accountable at the ballot box. We've talked about the problem of runaway spending on Medicaid for far too long. The lawmakers should use this special session to make some changes of substance that truly make a difference.
I firmly believe there are many recipients of the Medicaid program that should be ineligible. There are far too many with "disabilities" that make a mockery of the system. And yes, there are those truly in need and we need to provide for them immediately and fully.
But the other prong of the problem involves health care providers who cheat the system. I think that may be the dirty little secret of Medicaid that goes unspoken. Just yesterday in Kansas City, a handful of health care providers were indicted for overbilling Medicaid and Medicare by providing equipment to the disabled that turned out to be far inferior to what was promised and what was paid for. They represent a small percentage but it's wrong nonetheless.
I have spoken with literally dozens of Sikeston residents who are on or applying for disability that will put them on the Medicaid roles and provide disability benefits. In each case, these people are more than able to work but have discovered a way to cheat the system. It's now up to us to outsmart those who abuse the system.
If Matt Blunt wants to be re-elected he needs to push legislation through this special session that will restore some benefits for those truly in need. And he needs to push for legislation that will more closely examine the services and fees provided by the health care community. And it needs to be crafted in such a manner that legitimate health care providers won't have to face an armada of trial lawyers who want their piece of the pie.
With Medicaid taking one-third of Missouri's annual budget, it's well past time to dissect this program and make it work. You start that process by eliminating those who would cheat the system.