Missouri Health Care and Medicaid Expansion

With permission by the Columbia Missourian:

DAVID ROSMAN: Pitting health care against politics leads to conflict

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:15 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The St. Louis Beacon’s column sent a chill up my spine. I knew it was coming, but still …

“Before leaving the state Capitol for a one-week recess, the state Senate’s Republican leaders have issued a joint statement declaring, in effect, that there’s no way they will support an expansion of Medicaid.” That accepting moneys from “a partner as unreliable as the federal government would likely mean future tax increases or serious cuts to vital priorities, like K-12 education.”

The Beacon was speaking about SB 349, sponsored by state Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, which would have provided “benefits under the MO HealthNet program to persons aged 19 or older, but younger than 65, who are not otherwise eligible for MO HealthNet services, who qualify for MO HealthNet services under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, and who have income at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level plus 5 percent of the applicable family size.”

Unfortunately, the bill was killed in Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s Appropriations Committee just before the legislature’s unnecessary vacation.

Do Missouri’s legislative right-wingers somehow believe that “pro-life” stops after the birth of the child? Is there a special rule that says that denying “$4.2 billion in federal subsidies over the next six years that now help cover the costs of uninsured people who show up for care” is somehow humane?

Do Missouri’s GOP extremists believe that the federal government is somehow less reliable than Missouri’s? Or is this new code for wanting to deem any federal law that has a hint of an Obama or Democratic label as “socialist,” “anti-American” and, therefore, should be illegal in Missouri.

This is nothing new. Political cartoonist Matt Wuerker reminds us that history reveals “socialism” has also included public education, public water systems, highways and state and federal parks. Well, public education remains on today’s list because it is secular (read “anti-religion”), but that’s another column.

This is yet another deep rift in the plains of the conservative savanna, further separating the extremists from the citizens. The Columbia Tribune reported that the newest fissure is between allies (now former allies?), the MO-GOP and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Dan Mehan told the Tribune that the Chamber’s position of the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” is that it “is bad policy in a lot of ways, but it’s reality. You move on. That battle’s been waged.”

Mr. Mehan has learned his lesson from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” that not every battle is worth fighting and that one needs to choose his battles wisely or risk losing the war, something Mr. Demsey and the MO-GOP need to heed. Stop fighting unwinnable battles just to score points. This is not the NHL!

The opponents to Medicaid expansion will tell you that it would have been a job killer and would ruin Missouri’s already fragile economy. Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, does not believe that. She told Missourinet that accepting Medicaid expansion would create an additional 24,000 jobs and add almost $10 billion to the state’s economy. Not to mention providing 300,000 more Missouri residents access to the health care they need. Now that would be pro-life. And pro-economy and middle class.

Once again, our own Sen. Kurt Schaefer voted against the people, putting politics over human life and making unsupported claims that other state programs may suffer. The key word here is “may.” Schaefer’s implication that any shortfall because of the Medicaid expansion will cause a shortfall in Missouri’s K-12 budget is simply unsupported. Missourinet does not indicate who Schaefer was questioning during the committee hearing, but the answer is most telling, that in every other legislative discussion about revue, the question of the effects on the education budget did not come up. “It only happens when we are talking about Medicaid.”

The killing of SB 346 is only another indication that the Republican state legislators are more concerned about their political image than the health of their state and its citizens. I am hopeful that SB 346 will rise again under another title, with louder voices from the supporters, demanding the legislators practice the morals they claim by placing the well-being of all Missourians above all other divisive and radical politics.

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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