October 11, 2005 – Posted at 4:12 p.m. CDT
KENNETT, MO -- The Missouri Medicaid Reform Commission was scheduled to travel the state gathering information before drafting recommendations for a new health care system. When the group cancelled its meetings, many legislators and citizens across the state were outraged. But a few members of the commission were in the Bootheel Tuesday holding the first of three public hearings.
The Commission has the task of creating a new public health care system to replace Medicaid, which will cease to exist in 2007, under a Republican-sponsored bill that became law earlier this year.
Southeast Missouri has one of the highest concentrations of Medicaid recipients in the state, and in Tuesday’s public hearing in Kennett, emotions ran high.
“I have to have my oxygen and if my Medicaid is cut out where does that leave me?” asked Cynthia Fossett who lost money to cover her vision and dental care.
“I will either die from starvation or I can take my medicine. What am I supposed to do?” said Julius Fossett as he addressed members of the Commission.
“I don't think the issues are the same for each and so I feel it's important for us to come down and hear what the people have to say,” said State Senator Rita Heard Days, D-Bel Nor.
“Poor people aren't making it,” said Deborah Melton through tears, “They don't realize that we are falling through the cracks.”
“We are dealing with the elderly which has a different set of circumstances themselves. We’re dealing with the disabled community, which they have a set of issues that aren't like others, and then of course we just have the working poor who absolutely need some kind of healthcare safety net,” said Senator Days, “It's not an easy issue and I don't think there are any clear cut answers.”
And if Tuesday’s meeting offered any hope to the folks in Southeast Missouri, it was that their voices reached the right ears.
“I'm hoping that when the legislators here go back to Jefferson City and they report to the commission there in Jefferson City that they will truly listen to the voices of the people,” said community leader Pat Allen.