House Bill 1565 is a bill that addresses asset limits for elderly and disabled Missourians who seek to qualify for Medicaid. The current law (that hasn’t changed in more than forty years) allows individuals to have only $1,000 in assets or $2,000 if they are a married couple. HB 1565 that was approved by the House would steadily increase these limits up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for a couple by the year 2021. After that time the limit will continue to increase with the rate of inflation.
HB1565 received strong bipartisan support in the House. Supporters stated that the current limit prevents many elderly and disabled citizens from having enough money in savings to adequately provide for themselves or to pay any emergency expenses. This bill has strong support from Missouri’s Public Administrators. Last year a similar bill, SB 322, received overwhelming approval in the House but, sadly, fell victim to the filibuster that finally shut down the Senate the last week of session. The House bill is now on its way to the Senate and, hopefully, will find its way to the governor’s desk.
In addition, House members approved legislation to expand the state’s newborn screening requirements to include severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). This legislation is meant to save lives of our littlest ones diagnosed with SCID, giving them an opportunity to have a healthy and normal life.
Children born with SCID appear healthy until they contact a childhood illness. At that point in time the SCID manifests itself and usually results in a severely limited lifespan for the child—sometimes as short as one year. Unfortunately, the majority of what time these children do have is often spent in hospitals. The key to giving children with SCID a chance at life is by identifying the disorder at birth so the child can receive a bone marrow transplant. Currently, thirty-four states have newborn screening requirements that include SCID, the purpose of which is to help prevent babies dying from what is now a preventable disease.
Legislation also establishes within the Department of Health and Senior Services the Sickle Cell Standing Committee. This committee assesses the impact of Sickle Cell Disease in urban communities, examining the existing programs and resources and developing recommendations for educational services to schools. The bill will now be taken up by the Missouri Senate.
Finally, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 96 was approved by the House to support the national Toxic Exposure Act. HCR 96 urges the Congress of the United States to approve the act and create a national center for research of the health conditions of veterans and to offer diagnosis and treatments to those who were exposed to toxins during their military service. The national center would be created within the Department of Veterans Affairs and would not only deal with diagnosis and treatment for veterans, but also for some of their descendants who exhibit symptoms of toxin damage and have certain diseases. The resolution states that numerous veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals during their military service, chemicals which include such things as agent orange and dioxin-contaminated herbicides used during the Vietnam War. In the Gulf War, others in our military were exposed to chemical weapons and neurotoxins used during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposure to these toxins have led to various medical conditions and unexplained ailments for veterans years after their service, and the diseases in some of their descendants. The Toxic Exposure Act will make available health services that are greatly needed for our returning servicemen and servicewomen. The resolution is now being considered by the MO Senate.
Not all of our state’s citizens enjoy the quality of health they would like, yet severe financial constraints that hinder some in their quest for better healthcare may soon be a thing of the past. It is hoped that others, especially those very young babies and children with SCID, may also soon have a much better chance at a normal life by receiving early diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore, we as a state must do all we can to help our veterans damaged by toxins in recent wars. In the near future they may have another resource to help deal with their own health issues, as well as their family’s.