Diedre Wortham of Walnut Park and her son Aden helped Nicole Galloway offer her response to Governor Mike Parson’s State of State Address, which he delivered on January 15.
“Aden struggles with sever anxiety and ADHD. I take him down to a clinic. And Aden loves his therapist, so it’s real important that I get him in there to see her because Aden have a lot of breakdowns,” Wortham said on a video released by Galloway’s campaign for governor.
“And we go there, and we found out my son did not have health insurance. He broke down that day. And there was not one doctor that he could see that day. There was no way he should have had to go through that.”
Aden is one of more than 100,000 Missouri children who have been dropped from the state’s Children's Health Insurance Program since 2018. In September 2019, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission reported that Missouri had the largest decline — 15.1 percent — in children covered by those two insurance programs between May 2017 and May 2019. Parson became governor on June 1, 2018, following the resignation of Governor Eric Greitens.
While Parson credited a strong economy for the drop, advocates pointed out that the cause is actually bureaucratic barriers created by the administration, as The American reported in February 2019.
“We have regular discussions with the state agency, so we talked with them about what was happening,” Joel Ferber, director of Advocacy for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, told The American. He said the problem was based on dual computer systems that “don’t talk to each other,” which interfered with routine renewals.
“Families contact us after they go to the doctor or pharmacy and learn they no longer have coverage,” Ferber said – which was precisely Wortham’s experience with Aden.
“Every single case that we’ve handled, the kid has still been eligible,” Ferber said. “It’s not that the family got jobs that made them so much income that they didn’t need Medicaid anymore. They all qualified.”
Galloway’s State of the State response also featured a mother and son from rural southern Missouri. Heather Auler of Senath in Dunklin County (population 1,767) described learning that her son Robbie had lost his health coverage when he slipped from a trailer and hit his head.
“Governor Parson has resisted calls to investigate, has offered excuses, and now refuses to take accountability for the purge of eligible kids from their health insurance. This is unacceptable,” Galloway said. “Governor Parson must act and restore coverage for every eligible child in Missouri. Not another parent should have to go through what Diedre and Heather and so many others have gone through.”
In July, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade asked the Speaker of the House to launch an investigation. Parson and the legislative majority leadership have resisted, and child enrollment remains in decline, according to the state’s reporting.
A year ago, Ferber told The American that the evidence of error was clear. The state only needed to really want to fix the problem it created, which under Parson it has failed to do.
“Missouri’s drop-off rate for Medicaid for kids is nine times the national average, and Missouri’s economy isn’t nine times better than the national economy, and this is the only benefit that shows deviation,” Ferber said.
“So, it’s not the economy, it’s systems issues – whether it’s complicated paperwork, or problems with all these systems breaking down, or it’s the phone center, or dueling computer systems that don’t talk to each other.”
To find out if you or your child is still enrolled in MO HealthNet Medicaid services, contact the MO HealthNet Service Center at 1-855-373-4636 or at www.myDSS.MO.gov.
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri assists families in getting their eligible children back on Medicaid who may have been kicked out of the system in error. Reach LSEM at 314-534-4200, 800-444-0514 or at www.lsem.org.