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Protestors speak out against Blunt's Medicaid cuts

February 16, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A large trash bin filled with prosthetics limbs, discarded walkers and empty prescription bottles was dumped in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday.

Protesters gathered there to demonstrate against the cuts to Medicaid proposed in Gov. Matt Blunt's new budget.

Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence) took the opportunity to attack Blunt's proposed cuts.

"Our governor chose, in my opinion, the most negative way to attack Medicaid," Shoemyer said. "We spent 70 years developing a social contract, one that said I'll watch your back if you'll watch mine. The social contract today is under attack."

The Blunt cuts would reduce the qualification level for Medicaid to 30 percent of the federal poverty level and eliminate a number of smaller programs. The cuts would also cause many Medicaid recipients to lose their medical equipment.

The governor explained why he thinks the cuts are needed during a press conference earlier in the day.

"The question here is what sort of social welfare system can Missourians afford. We have to make some changes to get cost under control within state government," Blunt said. "And the only way to increase funding for public schools and hold the line on taxes is to reduce government spending and that includes government spending within social welfare programs."

Blunt said that he was making recommendations to the General Assembly about how the Medicaid program can be improved.

"Even after we make all those changes, 15 percent of the people in Missouri will be on Medicaid," Blunt said. "That is a very generous social welfare program that Missouri taxpayers will continue to fund."

Bobette Figler, of St. Louis, said she is a Medicaid recipient suffering from multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis, a disorder that affects the muscles and confines her to a wheelchair. She attended the event with her dog, Flint.

Figler said state health programs helped her overcome her disabilities.

"They gave me the inspiration to fight, to know that my life was worth living," Figler said.

She said she was once on a respirator and unable to speak or swallow. Eventually, she was able to go back to school with state help.

"By the grace of God and this program I was able to return to work four years ago," she said.

Robin Acree, the protest group's director, introduced the speakers in front a pile of medical equipment. She vowed that Wednesday would not be the last time they made their voices heard.

"We are not a waste," she said. "We are valuable."