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Missouri's 100th session convenes

State Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, addresses the speaker on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, on the House floor after being sworn into Missouri's 100th legislative session at the Jefferson City capitol building. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Data shows nearly 90,000 children and close to 23,000 adults were dropped from Missouri’s Medicaid health care program in the past year, prompting a state Democratic leader to call for an investigation.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Sunday publicly released a letter she wrote to Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr days earlier asking him to launch an investigation of the recent enrollment drop.

“As parents, you and I can both appreciate how wrenching it must be for a mother or father to know their child needs medical attention and to learn they may not be able to get the care they need,” Quade wrote to Haahr, who has four children.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Quade cited concerns about unexpected medical bills that could force people to choose between paying a bill that should be covered by Medicaid or taking a hit to their credit.

She also warned about the implications for parents trying to vaccinate their children before school but suddenly finding that they’re no longer covered.

Haahr did not immediately comment Monday.

Medicaid is a federal government program that, in Missouri, provides health insurance for children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and other vulnerable, low-income communities.

Quade wrote that the drop doesn’t appear to be caused by an improving economy. If that were the case, Quade said Missouri would have also seen a similar decline in the number of people receiving food stamps and other government aid.

The Department of Social Services, which oversees Medicaid, did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.

In April, the Post-Dispatch reported that a factor contributing to the drop in enrollments was the renewal system adopted last spring by the Department of Social Services, which automatically renews only a low rate of recipients and operates with several data access issues.

Obstacles to re-enrolling, including hourslong waits on the state’s phone lines, were cited as a reason Missouri saw Medicaid enrollment drop by 7% last year — second only to Tennessee.

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