JEFFERSON CITY — The chairman of the committee that oversees the state’s Medicaid program was quietly removed from the panel last month after he raised concerns about a drop in the number of Missourians receiving health care coverage through the government program.
Timothy D. McBride, the former chairman of the MoHealthNet Oversight Committee, told the Post-Dispatch Tuesday the state’s top Medicaid official, Todd Richardson, called McBride in May and told him he would be replaced.
“He said it was nothing personal, nothing about me,” McBride said.
McBride was named chairman of the committee in 2013 under then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The administration of Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has faced questions in recent months about a dramatic drop in the number of people receiving Medicaid coverage.
McBride had pressed for answers. State data shows 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have lost coverage within the past year. Among other factors, the state has attributed the drop to an improved economy.
At a meeting of the oversight board Tuesday, Patrick Luebbering, director of the Family Support Division of the Department of Social Services, said there have been 41,000 fewer applications for coverage from 2015 to 2018.
“We are just not seeing applications for Medicaid at near the level we’ve seen in the past,” said Luebbering.
But McBride, a Washington University professor specializing in health care issues, has said there is more to the story.
He said that even if a parent’s income increased and they subsequently dropped off the rolls, their children should still remain eligible for Medicaid.
“I’m frustrated with the view that I think they still attribute a lot of this change to the improving economy, which I believe is part of the story, but a pretty small part of it,” McBride told the Post-Dispatch in April. “Whenever I push, that’s the answer we get, and that’s sort of the public answer.”
The Post-Dispatch reported then that advocates believed a new system for patient renewals was at least partly to blame for the dramatic decrease in those receiving coverage.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Sunday in a letter addressed to House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, that the House should investigate why so many people had lost coverage.
Haahr has not responded to the letter, but Richardson said an internal review is set to begin later this summer that will investigate the customer experience people have with enrolling and interacting with the Medicaid program.
McBride said Tuesday that Richardson and others gave no indication his pushback was a reason for his forced departure.
“It was never brought up that that was what it was,” McBride said. “I’m always a person who likes to take people at their word.”
“Governors like to make their appointments,” McBride said he was told.
McBride was serving an expired term, which is common for members of Missouri’s hundreds of boards and commissions.
No one from Gov. Mike Parson’s administration immediately offered an explanation for McBride’s departure. According to a state website, seven other members of the 19-member panel are currently serving expired terms, though McBride said one of those members had not been on the board for several years.
Parson’s office has made no mention of McBride’s departure. But on June 17, he announced three new members would join the oversight panel: Kaylyn Lambert, of Nixa; Sarah Oerther, of Rolla; and Dr. Nick Pfannenstiel, of Willard.
McBride said Lambert took his place on the panel. The board’s website says her term began June 3 and ends Oct. 30. The oversight board will elect a new chairperson from within its ranks, he said.
McBride said the vice chair of the panel, Margaret Benz, had also been replaced. She, too, was a Nixon appointee.
Lambert, according to a press release, is the system director of patient experience at CoxHealth, with eight years of experience in health care administration.
Kurt Erickson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.