NU Online News Service, Jan. 13, 5:33 p.m. – The Missouri Senate is considering a bill that would create a new “Missouri Universal Health Assurance Program” for poor, elderly and disabled state residents.

The bill, Senate Bill 23, calls for the program to be administered by a 19-member board that would include the directors of the departments of social services, health and mental health, but not necessarily any insurance regulators or insurance industry representatives, according to the bill text.

The state would fund the program by imposing a health premium surcharge on every employer and self-employed person in the state.

The program board’s duties would include studying “means of incorporating institutional long-term care benefits into the program,” according to the bill text.

If lawmakers approve the bill, the voters will have a chance to accept or reject it through a November 2004 referendum, according to a fiscal note written by Lorie Towe, a state legislative analyst.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Mary Groves Bland, D-Kansas City, Mo.

The text of the bill is on the Web at http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills03/bills/sb023.htm