JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Blind Missouri residents could have to start paying premiums of more than $100 monthly to remain eligible for state health care coverage, under a budget-cutting plan put forth Tuesday night by a Senate committee.

The plan embraced by the Senate Appropriations Committee could represent a middle ground with the House, which had sought to eliminate the blind health care benefits and replace them with a new, substantially slimmed down program. But the new plan does not appear to be backed by the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, who has been outspoken against any cuts to blind benefits.

For more than 50 years, Missouri has paid for the health care of blind residents who earn too much to qualify for the Medicaid health care program for low-income residents — a cutoff of about $755 a month, according to the Department of Social Services. The state also provides a separate, roughly $700 payment to the blind. More than 2,800 blind residents currently are covered by the special health care program.

The Republican-led House voted last month to eliminate the roughly $30 million blind health care program, arguing that the money was needed to help balance the budget and noting that no comparable benefit was available to people with other types of disabilities. The House instead voted to fund a new $6 million blind health care plan, funded largely by a tax increase on newspaper publishers.

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