Cynthia Hamilton has been diagnosed with 13 different disabilities, all of which she had written on her T-shirt Wednesday at a protest in Jefferson City.
Hamilton, along with hundreds of other protesters from across the state, gathered at the steps of the Capitol to urge lawmakers to oppose a bill that would cut Medicaid and other social services.
“I have diabetes, epilepsy and a heart condition,” said Hamilton, 47. “I have had brain surgery more times than I want to talk about for different reasons, and now (Blunt) wants to take my last means of support.”
The St. Louis-based Interfaith Partnership led the rally, which was a joint effort by a number of activist organizations from throughout the state.
“The whole point of the rally is to make legislators and the governor aware of the actions they are taking here today,” said Orvin Kim of Interfaith Partnership. “We are not just people. We are the people who have a stake in this and will be affected by any cuts in Medicaid and health care programs.”
The protest came just before the legislature was to debate on a bill that, if approved, would cut Medicaid programs and payments to certain individuals by making it harder to qualify for the program.
Hamilton, who has relied on Medicaid since the death of her husband two years ago, walked with a slight limp because of a lack of muscle control in her left leg caused by the unchecked progression of diabetes. Still, she wanted her voice heard as she marched along with the others to the steps of the Capitol, shouting “Recall Blunt.”
“If they cut this from me, I will have nothing else,” Hamilton said. “I will be forced to sit at home and just pass away.”
If the new requirements are passed by the legislature, nearly 100,000 people would be removed from the Medicaid rolls, and a number of social services would be eliminated, including First Steps — a program designed to help special needs children prepare for school.
“All people will do is quit the job they have now just to qualify for Medicaid,” said Ed Thiel, a farmer from Mount Vernon who attended the protest. “(Blunt) is not promoting any kind of independence; he is just digging the hole deeper for the state and the people who are on Medicaid.”
Still, legislators argued on Wednesday that without any kind of change at all to Medicaid, the program would not be able to support anyone in the coming years because of a lack of revenue.
“It is a compassionate response because if we did absolutely nothing, pretty soon everyone would be off of Medicaid because we broke the bank,” said Rep. Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin. Portwood, who used to receive Medicaid, said he understands why people would be worried.
But protesters outside the Capitol shouted that no one in the statehouse knows how they feel about having their social service program threatened with major budget cuts.
“If the governor is looking for something to cut, he needs to look elsewhere,” said Lou Trombley, a member of the board of directors for the Disabled Citizens Alliance for Independence. “He will essentially be killing anyone who cannot afford treatment or medication.”
As the protest on the steps wound down, organizers encouraged protesters to find their legislator in the Capitol and urge them to oppose the bill.
“All we can do is tell them what we think,” Hamilton said. “Otherwise, we will have to live with less than what we have now, and that is not much.”