To the editor:
State Rep. Jason Crowell's guest column about Medicaid changes proposed by the Missouri House seriously misrepresented the issues surrounding the state's medical assistance programs. Unfortunately, your March 26 editorial further confused the issue.
Many families with one or more members working cannot obtain medical insurance. Some employers do not offer insurance. And when it is provided, dependent coverage often requires such high premiums that workers cannot afford to cover their spouses or children. Millions of American families have no choice but to expose themselves to the risk of financial ruin during illness or injury.
Crowell and his colleagues want to whittle the important health-care benefits that as late as last year were determined by the legislature to be essential protection for working families.
Crowell calls Medicaid and related programs "welfare," implying these programs benefit undeserving people. These benefits more properly should be seen as filling some of the gaps left by our patchwork system of medical insurance. Most of the dollars spent on these programs provide health security for elderly and disabled people and for working families. A small fraction is spent on families receiving support through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Cuts in Medicaid would reduce families' ability to work and provide proper care for their children.
Nearly two-thirds of the money for these programs receive comes from the federal government. Cutting state funding would deprive Missouri of federal money. And money spent by these programs goes directly to providers of medical care.