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.
Overall, Messenger wrote a pretty good editorial, but he is dead wrong to suggest that "fraud and abuse...was their rallying cry when they made the cuts in the first place."
The whole bit of rhetoric about "fraud and abuse" wasn't really raised by ANY Republican until almost three full months after Blunt, his budget director and a handful of GOP leaders in the House had already started swinging the axe on Medicaid. Go look it up. When "fraud and abuse" first surfaced as a justification, the cry was focused on service recipients, not service providers. The fact was, and is, that the only significant financial gains to be made in addressing "fraud and abuse" will be through civil and criminal prosecutions of service and equipment providers who rip off the state.
The Republicans' initial justification for the cuts was based solely on a narrowminded and shortsighted belief that the state's Medicaid program had grown too much, too fast.
It would shock the sensibilities of most compassionate Missourians to know just how blindly these fools approached their mission of reducing eligibility and eligibles. They looked solely at numbers on a sheet, and never once bothered to ask anyone about the real impacts to human lives. Nor did they take time to listen to career social services administrators who pleaded for some basic cautionary steps to be taken in lieu of reducing these types of safety net benefits.
It was only after a number of private social service agencies and non-profits began to mobilize heir protests with affected individuals that the Governor and his current administration and General Assembly leadership even bothered to weakly justify their actions by saying they were going after fraud and abuse on the part of providers.
This November, and in the next Gubernatorial election, I sincerely hope that everyone remembers the ignorance, arrogance and outright heartlessness that these self-described "compassionate conservatives" have demonstrated. They do not deserve re-election.
A postscript: One of the key leaders in Blunt's attack on Medicaid, Ken McClure, is about to segue into a nice, cushy job as Associate Vice President of Administrative Services at Missouri State University. Lucky for him, public welfare is alive and well...
"That Blunt today understands that reality of our system speaks well for the potential reform of the Medicaid system..." Too kind, Tony.
That ER statement by Blunt-makes him sound like a flaming liberal. A Desperate Desperado.
Placing a clear emphasis on fraud and abuse is a way to demonize Medicaid, not unlike dirty political race baiting etc. Particularly when, like anonymous said, the fraud and abuse rallying was initially directed toward Medicaid recipients, not providers.
It's high time we cleared the room in Jeff City.
"public welfare is alive and well..."
...and it's still the wrong approach. God forbid able-bodied people should learn to NOT rely on government healthcare.
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