Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Post-Dispatch ran a hard-hitting editorial this past Sunday. Titled, The Shameless 20, the piece takes the Republican Senators who voted to cut Medicaid to task.

The article hit on all the salient facts surrounding the Medicaid issue. They address the fact that Medicaid makes health care more efficient by providing help earlier, rather than waiting for someone to show up in an emergency room. Preventative care saves everyone money by keeping costs down.

It also address the ignorant assumption that Medicaid only serves those who are too lazy to help themselves. In an age when more and more people find themselves working low-wage jobs with no benefits who can't afford the hundreds of dollars a month that insurance can cost, using the government's resources to help offset some of those costs is the ethical thing to do. Medicaid also helps those who are retired or disabled and are unable to go out and find other means to cover expenses whose growth consumes more and more of their fixed income.

They also pointed out the irony that 17 of the 20 Senators who voted for the cuts receive benefits paid for by the taxpayers.
Politicians have come under fire in the past for receiving medical benefits and they have argued, correctly, that their government responsibilities may not always allow them to earn much when the legislature is not in session and since they make so little, they need the benefits they might not otherwise be able to afford. But how can they also argue that it is wrong to use the government's resources to help the other Missourians who can't cover the rising cost of health care?

One final point they make, which is somewhat overlooked, is that the state investment in Medicaid is reinforced by federal funds. These funds not only represent heath care services, but it is also money going into Missouri's economy. The hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses who provide heath care, as well as all the suppliers who support them benefit, and as a result Missouri's economy benefits. They all pay taxes and spend their money in their community. Cutting $250 million in state funds results in an overall loss of $737.4 million in investment. That is even before the investment multiplier kicks in. There is also an economic impact due to lack of insurance. It means more work hours lost as well as higher treatment costs that may eventually be passed onto the consumers (the people of Missouri). Lost productivity and higher costs will stifle business growth faster than any lawsuit.

Certainly there are ways to try and reduce the costs of heath care, but those require time and effort. Knee-jerk cuts to Medicare are bad for Missouri, no matter how you look at it.

- Murphy

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