May 14--JEFFERSON CITY -- A plan to use federal funding to offset the cost of COVID-19 tests for Missouri residents advanced in the Senate on Thursday.
Under the measure, the Department of Health and Senior Services could use federal money from stimulus packages like the CARES Act to pay for testing expenses that aren't covered by a resident's health insurance provider. The expenses covered would be capped at $150, and a health care provider must recommend the test.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, sponsored the plan, which was added to a larger package of health care legislation.
"The key to understanding what's going on and how (the coronavirus) is moving through communities and everything else is through testing," he said. "This will allow us to maybe relieve some pressure from people when they're wondering if they should go get tested."
During the debate on the measure, some Republicans objected to the potential costs of such a program.
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, amended the plan to add the $150 limit.
Republicans also said the plan could have unintended consequences. They argued it could incentivize insurance companies to drop coverage for COVID-19 testing and expect the state to pick up the cost.
"We don't want to encourage that," Hegeman said.
To address this worry, Hegeman's amendment added language to the legislation that states: "A health insurance provider shall not reduce a Missouri resident's health insurance coverage that is related to the testing for (COVID-19) during a state of emergency declared by the governor."
"I'm sure they'd be happy to continue covering all their people just as they had, but should they not, this is intended to discourage that," Hegeman said.
The testing plan was tacked onto an enormous package of health care legislation Wednesday evening. The omnibus is carrying dozens of provisions, including a plan to ban vaping in public schools.
The Senate debated the package for 11 hours on Wednesday and voted to approve it Thursday morning. The legislation began in the House, but the Senate added numerous amendments, apart from the testing plan. The amended version must still win the House's endorsement.
The omnibus legislation is House Bill 1682.
(c)2020 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.