This week my House Bill 2225 was heard by the Insurance Committee. This bill addresses the situation of insurance carriers increasingly offering limited network policies that exclude certain providers and claim no contractual relationship with them. The bill does not limit insurers’ ability to offer narrow plans, but it protects patients in these policies when they justifiably receive out of network care in emergency situations or when specifically authorized by the insurance carrier. This legislation addresses carrier payments in these scenarios to ensure:

1. Patients are not caught in the middle with surprise bills when the carrier circumvents paying the provider

2. Providers such as doctors and hospitals are compensated for care that is required by federal law or approved by the insurer.

3. Under this bill, insurers would directly pay providers for services needed to screen and stabilize patients in the Emergency Room. It does not mandate a payment rate. Direct payment creates a contractual relationship so the carrier and provider can negotiate without putting the patient in the middle.

I am also working on House Bill 2306. This is a bill to create the Environmental Restoration Act. This bill essentially creates a public benefit nonprofit corporation to hold, manage, or own environmentally impaired property that is otherwise subject to an ongoing cleanup or remedial action. The idea is to find a way to allow for the distribution of the $24.1 million in ASARCO funds that are currently available and intended for the Big River watershed. A few years ago approximately $12 million of these funds were used to buy parks that were in areas never affected by lead mining and not a part of the original settlement. This legislation would give the area a vehicle for getting projects approved for St Francois County.

HB 1744 was passed this week with an emergency clause. This bill will allow a student to be able to receive an A+ scholarship if they attend a school for three years. In the past, the laws indicated that they had to attend the last three years before graduation. This bill will help students from St Francois County who may move during their time in high school between two schools to retain the A+ scholarship. The original bill contained the three year clause because most schools originally were not A+ schools. Almost all schools in Missouri are now A+ schools.

Today, I signed up to co-sponsor HB 1663. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, this bill will permit a school board or local education agency to establish an academic and career counseling program in cooperation with parents and the local community that is in the best interest of and meets the needs of the students in the community. School districts and local education agencies may use the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program as a resource for the development of a district or local educational agency (LEA) program. The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a process for recognition of a school district’s academic and career counseling program established with parents and the local community, no later than January 1, 2019.

There are many statistics showing that we are looking at a shortage of qualified people to fill vocational jobs over the next five years. This bill is one small step we must make to address this impending shortage.

I also have co-sponsored HB 1247 – DIABETES AWARENESS MONTH

This bill designates the month of November as “Diabetes Awareness Month” and encourages Missourians to participate in appropriate activities and events to increase awareness of diabetes. This one is very important to me. My mother was a severe diabetic and I have witnessed firsthand its devastating effects.

Missouri’s MOST 529 Savings Plan participants may now use their accounts for K-12 tuition at public, private and religious schools in additions to various higher education expenses that were previously omitted. As confirmed by the Department of Revenue, up to $10,000 can now be withdrawn from a MOST 529 account per year per students for this authorized expense.

HB 1415 would allow a teacher to count hours spent in a local business externship as contact hours of professional development. Supporters say the bill is meant to encourage teachers to engage in learning experiences with businesses in the community and bring real world skills back into the classroom. The bill would also provide students the opportunity to choose between the ACT WorkKeys assessment or ACT (including ACT Plus Writing) assessment. The ACT WorkKeys indicates that a student is career ready and provides an option for students that may seek vocational training rather than college.

HB 1350 would modify the laws regarding background check requirements of in-home service providers and home health agencies. Supporters say the bill would increase the number of people who can work as an in-home service provider or personal care attendant and relieve burdensome paperwork requirements on the department because 75 percent of applicants are eventually given good cause waivers. This bill would stop applicants from being flagged for minor violations, like littering or writing a bad check, which also may have occurred several years ago.

HB 1370 would require every school district and charter school to maintain an accountability portal for the public. Supporters say the bill will help citizens look up basic financial information on their school district and enable them to ask questions at board meetings or gain additional information from the department.

HB 1411 would prohibit a peer support specialist from disclosing any confidential communication properly entrusted to the counselor by law enforcement and emergency personnel while receiving counseling. Supporters say the program is already in effect but there is little participation because it is not confidential. This is a very important program, because officers need someone to talk to. More officers killed themselves last year than were killed in the line of duty. This legislation is not only about preventing suicide, but it is also about making sure we have officers who are healthy for service.

HB 1880 declares the expansion of broadband services to be within the best interests of the citizens of Missouri and a public purpose. In furtherance of expanding broadband throughout Missouri, the bill states the intent of the General Assembly to encourage agreements between various parties and rural electric cooperatives to expand rural broadband services. Supporters say the availability of Internet services is essential to Missourians’ daily lives, especially for individuals living in rural communities. For the aging population in particular, access to broadband is necessary for telehealth and communication.

I received art work from Jaylin Bacerra; a third grade student at Roosevelt Elementary in Farmington. Unfortunately, because of weather, Jaylin and her parents were unable to make the trip to the Capitol. It is very obvious from her art work that Jaylin is a talented artist. I will be proud to display Jaylin’s artwork in my office.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative for St. Francois County.

Missouri 117th District House Representative Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, files his Capitol report at the end of each week during the state legislative session.

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