Area residents share stories at discussion of health care; local candidates in attendance

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Funtasia Clark lost Medicaid benefits when she turned 19 and aged out of the system. With no insurance coverage, the college student racked up a $6,000 hospital bill during a recent emergency stay. Between paying for college and the rising cost of living expenses, Clark is struggling to make ends meet.

"This is a major issue. There needs to be a [health] program for college students," said Stacey Sickler, a health policy organizer with Missouri Health Care for All.

Other people told stories of lacking preventive care, being unable to find doctors who accept Medicaid or of being caught between making too much money to qualify for government assistance but not enough to pay for individual coverage.

Sickler moderated a forum about health-care issues Wednesday at SADI, or SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence. Along with Will Richardson, director of outreach and education for SADI, she solicited people's personal stories to understand issues they face. They plan to share the stories with lawmakers to aid in their advocacy for "high-quality, affordable" health care.

Candidates in local political races were invited, although they mostly listened as opposed to participating. Clint Tracy, the Republican candidate for the 158th District Missouri House seat, and Linda Sanders, the Democratic candidate for state Senate in the 27th District, attended.

One issue that was raised throughout the night was the lack of local doctors who accept Medicaid. Brittany Greer described how she had to drive her daughter to Perryville, Mo., to find a dentist who would readily accept her.

Greer said has no insurance for herself because she makes too much to qualify for Medicaid. "I make about $3 over the limit. I can't afford to get it on my own, so I just don't have it at all. If anything happened I don't know what I would do," the full-time student and full-time employee said.

Another parent, Christina Jordan, said she qualifies for a policy but the high deductible often prevents her from seeing a doctor.

Money is needed for more referral agents and those that "help people try to figure the system out," Regina Tucker said. She referred to the system as complicated and bureaucratic.

Money for preventive care was another common theme. Cathy Dietl described how she has a history of colon cancer, so she began having colonoscopies at a younger age than what insurance would cover. She had to appeal to the insurance company to pay the charges.

Missouri Health Care for All calls itself a "nonpartisan, grassroots movement." The group is trying to form a Cape Girardeau chapter.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

388-3627

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