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Blunt lays out health platform

Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:53 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor Matt Blunt visited the Family Health Center in Columbia on Tuesday to push his health care platform.

Robert Pund, an occasional patient at the center, was in the building to get his taxes done but took interest in Blunt’s visit.

A quadriplegic since a 1989 car crash, Pund said he and Blunt could butt heads on health care issues soon.

“They can’t cut Medicaid,” Pund said about the state-funded program that Blunt plans to scale back if he wins the gubernatorial election in November. “If they do, I could lose some of my personal-care hours, not to mention dental, durable electric chairs ... everything I need to survive.”

Pund said his disability has tied him to a low income and that he depends on Medicaid to pay for most of his personal care. He’s among about 950,000 Missourians who are eligible for Medicaid, which is almost one-fifth of the state’s population.

Around the nation, Blunt said, the average is about one in 10.

Blunt, who spent 20 to 30 minutes touring the center on Vandiver Drive and visiting with Executive Director Gloria Crull, said the state must seek a middle ground between helping the needy and providing quality health care.

“We must try to ensure a reasonable quality of life for those with the most need while still being able to have the state provide access to affordable health care,” Blunt said.

New legislation designed at cutting Medicaid would mean the loss of dental and optical coverage for about 409,000 low-income adults whose situations are similar to Pund’s.

“I see what they’re trying to do, cutting out the high risk beneficiaries,” Pund said, “but in my opinion, the government is giving medical aid to big corporations rather than needy people.”

Blunt, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, also discussed a plan for a “noneconomic” $250,000 cap on payouts for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. That means victims of malpractice would receive a maximum of $250,000 plus medical expenses.

The current level is $565,000.

The Missouri Senate last week approved legislation that cut the cap to $450,000. Blunt said a further reduction would drastically reduce medical malpractice insurance for doctors.

That insurance now is so expensive, he said, that it has driven more than 500 experienced Missouri doctors out of the state or forced them to quit their practices altogether.

“California, by no means a conservative state, has experimented in previous years with a $250,000 noneconomic cap,” Blunt said. “It’s been extremely successful so far, and there’s no reason to think it couldn’t work in Missouri.”


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