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Missouri’s Medicaid czar back on the job after temporary leave

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Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff

Jefferson City • Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, announces the House and Senate have gathered enough signatures of members of the Legislature to call a special session that could result in the impeachment of Gov. Eric Greitens. May 3, 2018. Photo by Chris Moreland, Missouri House of Representatives.

JEFFERSON CITY — After taking a seven-month leave of absence, the director of Missouri’s newly expanded Medicaid health insurance program has returned to work.

Todd Richardson, a former speaker of the Missouri House, was back on the job on Oct. 1, the same day a voter-approved expansion of the MO HealthNet program went into effect.

Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, stepped away from the $233,000 per year job in March to spend more time with his family. They spent much of the time traveling the United States in a recreational vehicle.

Payroll records show he was not paid while he was out.

Richardson’s departure came at a critical juncture in state government. During the spring legislative session, Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Mike Parson balked at funding the expansion, which was endorsed by 53% of the voters in August 2020.

Supporters took the state to court to force the implementation and won, but the start date for enrollment was delayed from July 1 until Oct 1.

Richardson, an attorney, was chosen as Medicaid director after term limits ended his tenure as the leader of the Republican-controlled House, where he oversaw a legislative investigation that led to the resignation of former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Richardson, who became a member of the House in 2010, was elevated to the speaker’s post in 2015, following the forced resignation of John Diehl after Diehl had an inappropriate relationship with a college-age intern.

During Richardson’s absence, former state Rep. Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific, oversaw the program. He has returned to his position as “chief transformation officer” of the multibillion dollar health care program, the department said Wednesday.

Since July, when people began signing up for the expanded offering, more than 17,000 have received coverage, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Through the American Rescue Plan, Missouri is eligible to receive an estimated $968 million in additional federal stimulus funding for the program over the next two years.

The stimulus plan is designed to incentivize states to expand coverage through Medicaid by offering a 5 percentage point increase in their regular federal matching rate for many medical services for two years. This is in addition to the 90% federal matching funds currently available through the Affordable Care Act for medical services for Medicaid expansion enrollees.

The expansion allows a single adult making up to $17,774 a year, or a family of 4 making up to $36,750 a year, to qualify for Medicaid through MO HealthNet.

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