Poor Missourians need safety net

Sunday, October 14, 2007 | 4:38 p.m. CDT; updated 12:38 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

There has been a tragic story in Missouri that has not been told because its complicated and human nature prevents us from thinking that “it couldn’t happen to us.”

The Social Security program is considered sacred by the majority of citizens from both parties because people from all classes and backgrounds pay into the program and expect to get something back upon retirement or becoming disabled. It is not considered welfare but rather a pension and insurance program. Everybody pays into the Social Security system and everyone expects to get their fair share back. We see it on our pay stubs as the 15.3 percent FICA tax in which the employee pays half and the employer pays half. The three parts of the program are Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare.

Unfortunately in Missouri, that safety net is broken.

The Republican legislature and Gov. Matt Blunt advocated for deep cuts to Medicaid that has forced people with disabilities who receive SSDI to pay higher premiums in order to keep Medicaid. Since the cuts, people that live on SSDI are required to live at 15 percent below the poverty level which means a disabled person would only have $724 to take care of himself and his family. People commonly have to give up their house, go bankrupt and some even consider divorce in order to keep their insurance. With all the medical expenses not covered by Medicaid, people do not have enough money to live on. What makes this situation more tragic is that these people deserve to keep this money to take care of themselves and because this is earned money from an insurance program and not welfare.

We need to re-establish a basic safety net that allows people to keep the money they have earned and help those that have become disabled. The chances are 3 out of 10 that someone could become disabled sometime in their working life. We all benefit from helping the unfortunate because tomorrow we may be the ones that need the help. We all share the same safety net and it needs to be restored.

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