JEFFERSON CITY — Dozens of protesters gathered on the south side of the Capitol on Wednesday to decry Medicaid cuts that cleared the Missouri Senate on Tuesday night.
The Senate bill, which is backed by Gov. Matt Blunt, would reduce Medicaid benefits for thousands of Missourians and permanently end the Medicaid program in 2008. Medicaid is a federal- and state-funded program for the poor that helps with medical costs.
“If you’re on Medicaid, you shouldn’t always assume you are going to be on it,” Blunt said in a news conference Wednesday morning.
Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, said it’s common knowledge that Medicaid is flawed. He said there are even instances of people living in other states drawing Medicaid benefits from Missouri.
“There is just so much fraud it’s sad,” he said, adding that those who legitimately receive benefits shouldn’t worry.
“Those that really need it are going to get it,” he said.
The protesters, however, said they have doubts. Shannon Aller, who traveled from Kansas City to the Capitol for the protest and who relies on medicine and a machine to keep her breathing at night, cited Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities as a necessary program that is targeted by the cuts. The program is designed to help people move off disability assistance and back to work.
Jennifer Lueckftefeld, a staff member for the Harmony House rehabilitation center for mental health patients in Washington, Mo., said everyone she serves needs the help that Medicaid provides. She teaches clients life skills such as how to cook meals, balance checkbooks, set alarms and keep their apartments clean. On weekends, they take trips to places such as the zoo or the movies.
“If he takes it away, who is going to take care of them?” Lueckftefeld said.
Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, said the program must be cut back.
“We need more people pulling the wagon and fewer people riding in it,” he said.
The Medicaid cuts still must win House approval before the bill is sent to Blunt’s desk.