Commentary: Missouri House vote shows disdain for poor

Say you're a single mom who's having a hard time. Maybe you lost a decent job and you're waiting tables or working at a convenience store. Maybe you have headaches, or something worse. You think you should see a doctor, but you can't pay.

Guess what? Republicans in the Missouri House this week killed a plan that would have provided health insurance for 35,000 people like you — parents who make up to 50 percent of the poverty level. We're talking about an annual income of $11,025 for a family of four.

Guess what else? According to one of these Republicans, Tim Jones of Eureka, Mo., you are "plundering" the taxpayers.

According to Bryan Pratt of Lee's Summit, you're looking for "welfare," not health care.

Confused? Perfectly understandable. The House vote defied logic.

The proposal would not have cost Missouri taxpayers a dime. Hospitals had offered to pay $52.5 million a year out of federal funds they receive for treating uninsured patients. Missouri could use that money to draw down an additional $93 million in federal health-care money.

Hospitals liked the idea because it would have relieved pressure on their emergency rooms, where health care is costliest.

Business groups supported the proposal because it would have brought money into the state health care network, and because healthy employees are productive employees.

The Missouri Senate supported the plan because it would be good for the state.

Everyone liked the idea, except for 85 House Republicans, who outnumbered by 10 votes the House Democrats and a handful of GOP lawmakers.

With one week left in the legislative session, any hope of expanding access to health care in Missouri rests with lawmakers' dubious ability to agree on a new way to use the funds that hospitals had offered, and the matching federal dollars. Whatever plan they come up with will be more cumbersome and less accessible than a straightforward Medicaid expansion.

"The only possible reason not to do this is if you don't like the governor," said Democrat Jake Zimmerman, from St. Louis County, before Republicans rejected that expansion Thursday.

To read the complete column, visit www.kansascity.com.