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Letter to the Editor: Better Medicaid plan still possible

Friday, December 30, 2005

To the editor:

When the Missouri Medicaid Reform Commission this summer began studying how to improve the program, Democratic lawmakers on the panel were hopeful of producing recommendations to provide a better health-care system and address the rising number of working uninsured. Unfortunately, the final report endorsed by the commission's Republican majority fails in that regard. For that reason, we could not in good conscience join our Republican colleagues.

Although the report contains some positive recommendations, such as putting an emphasis on prevention and improving delivery of care through technology, overall it proposes additional and unwarranted barriers for the more than 900,000 Missourians who rely on Medicaid health care.

During the 2005 legislative session, Republican-sought statutory changes and budget reductions booted nearly 100,000 poor, elderly and disabled Missourians off Medicaid health care. The report fails to quantify what the alleged savings might be from these cuts or whether the human toll is too high to justify them. And it offers no solution for undoing the damage caused by the cuts. If the Missouri Legislature adopts the commission majority's recommendations in the 2006 session, it is unknown how many more people would join the ever-expanding number of Missourians who have lack coverage.

Fortunately, lawmakers are not bound by the commission's recommendations. Instead of achieving savings by denying care, the legislature should find savings by cracking down on the handful of unscrupulous providers who defraud the system. In addition, the legislature could find real savings by working to reduce prescription drug costs.

State Sen. PAT DOUGHERTY, Independence, Mo.

State Sen. RITA HEARD DAYS, St. Louis

State Rep. MARGARET DONNELLY, St. Louis

State Rep. YAPHETT EL-AMIN, St. Louis