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Protests continue over proposed Medicaid cuts

April 06, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -With cries of "Recall Blunt," hundreds of protesters flooded the south side of the capitol Wednesday to protest Gov. Blunt's proposed cuts to Medicaid.

Medicaid is a state and federal program designed to help the poor with medical costs.

"These cuts are an outrage," said Dr. Katie Plax, a pediatrician and associate professor at Washington University.

She said that the rich shouldn't receive better health care than the poor.

But Republicans maintain that the cuts are a necessity with troubled times for the state budget.

Rep. Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin, said that current programs are too generous and that one out of five people qualify.

He said that there are misconceptions about what the bill will do, including rumors that pregnant women and children will lose benefits.

"If you are a kid and you are on Medicaid last year, you will be on Medicaid this year," he said.

Portwood said he grew up an "ashamed" welfare recipient.

"I know what it's like to worry about what you're going to have for dinner," he said.

He said that there were good things in the bill that would help people, such as senior citizens.

But the protesters say they don't see the silver lining.

Lucy White, from St. Louis County, said that some people won't survive without Medicaid.

"Compassion needs to be in his (Gov. Matt Blunt) vocabulary for people," she said.

"It is a compassionate response because if we did absolutely nothing, pretty soon everyone would be off of Medicaid because we broke the bank," Portwood said.

The Medicaid bill will be debated in the House on Wednesday after passing in the Senate last month.