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Missouri Health Care Changes

Posted: Jan 26, 2007 11:47 AM

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Gov. Blunt wants to change the system from focusing on illness to prevention. With every new announcement, democrats have voiced opposition to the new plan. Wednesday night's official proposal was no different.

To some people like Max Lewis, a quadriplegic living off Medicaid, Blunt's plan could hurt them significantly.

"I just want the opportunity to live like any other individual," says Lewis. "To work, to possibly go out to a movie, or dinner, and possibly pay for it myself."

Lewis can't work, because he would lose his Medicaid. And as a quadriplegic, he can't afford to. A program that would help him work was cut two years ago.

"The M.O.D. program would allow people with disabilities to work," said Lewis. Now Lewis uses his law degree only on pro-bono work.

Democrats say Gov. Blunt's new plan won't help Lewis, nor would they help any others without insurance.

"The priority should have been restoring health care for the Missourian's health care he cut," said Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia. Republicans said the plan had a strong priority.

"This is going to reward people for living a healthy lifestyle, rather than pay them when their sick," said Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin. The new plan is based on a "Health Care Home."

The health care provider keeps extensive information about their patient in hopes of keeping people well and preventing serious illness. Current Medicaid participants would be eligible for the new program. Democrats say Blunt cut many from Medicaid, leaving more people uninsured.

"None of these details really matter if we're not expanding access to health care," said Harris.

Democrats and Republicans are clearly split on this issue, and democrats have a lot of complaints about Blunt's new system. One of their main complaints is that this plan is simply empty.

"If you're not providing access to health care for Missourians that don't have it, then it's a failure," said Harris.

"I certainly don't think it's an empty plan," said Ruestman. "I know hundreds of people have worked on this."

Rep. Ruestman says there are still some things that need to go through legislature before the ball gets rolling on this new plan. She says they will probably need to vote on how to budget the program.

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