May 5, 2005 – Posted at 5:49 p.m. CDT
DONIPHAN, MO -- Missouri residents on Medicaid may be in for a rude awakening if proposed legislators approve budget cuts. Eye exams will be covered, but not glasses. Motorized wheelchairs are in, but not the batteries to run them. Legislators are pushing to pass the cuts and that has some Region 8 residents worried.
“Almost 40% of this county has Medicaid,” said Ray Freeman, CEO of the Ripley County Memorial Hospital, “So the Medicaid cuts would be really devastating to our county because of the number of people that has Medicaid.”
About 13,000 people live in Ripley County, and many are facing an uncertain future when it comes to paying for health care.
“We're the second largest population that has Medicaid in Missouri. So it will really affect us with the cuts that's happening,” said Freeman.
And it could also have a big economic impact on the community.
“That's the biggest single source of income for the clinic and the hospital too, so it would be a pretty drastic situation,” said Dr. Gene Leuroux of the Ripley County Family Clinic.
“Those that don't have Medicaid we'll have to treat anyway and it will be hard and difficult to get payment,” said Freeman, “This really affects our whole community in a big way.”
The proposed budget would cut government health care available to low income parents, seniors and the disabled. However, children and pregnant women would be spared. To qualify for Medicaid, a single mother of two currently can earn about $12,000 dollars a year. The proposed budget would lower that to $3500. But there's no easy answer.
“It's been a problem a long time, and it's not going to go away, quick,” said Dr. Leuroux, “It will take a lot of work and dedication and figuring and probably some people going to have to give up some things.”