Tony Messenger, editorial-page editor of the News-Leader, gets it. In a Friday editorial he writes:
A legislative committee was in Springfield on Wednesday looking for fraud in Medicaid.
Perhaps there is some to be found, but we suggest lawmakers are once again focusing on the wrong priorities when they talk about Medicaid. What they ought to be doing is figuring how they're going to remake the system. When the legislature slashed Medicaid two years ago to balance the state budget, they passed a bill that wipes out the current state system of state-funded indigent care by 2008. The plan, Gov. Matt Blunt and Republican legislators said, was to remake the system from scratch.
So what are they doing? They're still talking about fraud and abuse, which was their rallying cry when they made the cuts in the first place. In the meantime, real people are suffering. Children have lost their insurance. Disabled adults have quit their jobs to keep their Medicaid. We're about two years away from the system going away and we're nowhere closer to figuring out the plan to develop a sustainable Medicaid program.
The good news is that Blunt seems to understand the key issue. In an interview with the News-Leader editorial board recently, he decried the liberal myth that too many people in our system today don't have access to health care.
"Everybody has access," Blunt says. "It's the emergency room. We need to change that."
The irony, of course, is that was the Democratic criticism two years ago when he slashed the Medicaid rolls and forced too many folks to use the emergency room as their sole source of health care. That Blunt today understands that reality of our system speaks well for the potential reform of the Medicaid system, if only the governor and lawmakers can get past political hurdles and focus on the real issues.