Senator Cunningham’s Legislative Column for March 14, 2019

Senator Mike Cunningham Legislative Column.

Senator Mike Cunningham Legislative Column.

Every family in Missouri faces the same challenge. We all have to figure out where the money goes. We sit at our kitchen tables and go over our income and expenses and try to match them up.

The state of Missouri is no different. I sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee, so many of my days in Jefferson City are spent pouring over the state’s budget. Each government department and agency appears before the committee and makes their requests. It’s our job, along with our colleagues in the House of Representatives, to decide how to divvy up the state’s resources.

Every year, your state government spends just shy of $30 billion.  About one third of that money comes from general revenue, otherwise known as taxes. The rest is federal dollars or other funds, which includes things like the tobacco settlement and various fees.

An ever-increasing part of the state’s budget is devoted to keeping our people healthy. Roughly 40 percent of every dollar your government spends goes toward Medicaid costs. Nearly 1 million Missourians have their health care paid for by MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program. That’s one out of every six people in the state.

More than 40 percent of children in our state receive insurance benefits either through MO HealthNet for Kids or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. In 2017, more than 17,000 children who live in the eight counties that make up the 33rd Senatorial District were enrolled in one of these two programs.

Children from families with household income less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level likely qualify for no-cost health insurance either through MO HealthNet for Kids or the CHIP program. Families with higher incomes – up to three times the federal poverty level – can purchase affordable insurance for their children through the Missouri CHIP program.

A single mother with one child at home and an annual income of about $37,000 would qualify for CHIP insurance. Eligibility increases with family size, so a family of four could earn more than $60,000 and still obtain insurance through CHIP. For more information about CHIP and the Medicaid services for children, log onto or call 855-373-4636 to find a Family Support Division office in your area.

In addition to providing insurance for children, your tax dollars also support Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout the state. Each FQHC provides primary and preventive medical care for people of all ages. Many FQHCs provide dental care and behavioral health services, as well. Fees for services are generally charged on a sliding scale, based on a client’s ability to pay.

A dozen FQHC medical clinics operate within the 33rd Senatorial District, with at least one clinic in every county. These centers are a vital lifeline for rural residents, who often have few other affordable places to turn for medical or dental care.

There are many demands placed on Missouri’s state government and all of these cost money. It is up to the General Assembly to decide how best to allocate resources. Keeping Missourians healthy is a priority every year and this year is no exception. As we work through the budget process, we will do all we can, within the limitations of finite revenue and competing demands, to ensure that money is spent on providing insurance and medical services for the families and children that need this important care.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

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