Are Missouri Republicans insane?

Are Missouri’s right-wing Republicans insane? Well, when it comes to Medicaid expansion they just might be.

I ask because, who in their right mind rejects billions of dollars in federal funding?

Yes, the money is earmarked to expand health care coverage for the poor, primarily women, children, people of color and rural folks.

Yes, the earmarked money would create thousands of new middle class jobs, primarily in health care administration, which would also help up-date, modernize and rationalize our broken health care system.

Yes, the earmarked money would save Missouri taxpayers hundreds-of-millions of dollars in health care premiums, as they would no-longer have-to shoulder the burden of industry cost-shifting to pay for the uninsured.

But (and I ask this rhetorically) is that reason enough to reject billions of dollars of federal funding?

I mean, I know the right-wing Republicans hate the poor, children, women and people of color. Though I think they like rural folks a little-bit better, as rural folks are more likely to vote Republican based on wedge issues like “Guns, Gays and Abortion.”

I know they only want to pay lip service to creating jobs, while viciously attacking unions and the moderate proposals they make that move us towards job creation. The Missouri legislature has spent most of its time so-far this legislative season debating ‘Right-to-Work’ (for-less), paycheck deception and gutting prevailing wage, which do nothing to create jobs.

And I know they don’t care about tax-payers, unless, of-course, you’re a millionaire or billionaire, as they’ve fought tooth and nail to stop tax increases on the one percent, while holding the rest of us hostage to sequestration, higher taxes and proposed cuts to our hard-earned Social Security.

But seriously, are Missouri’s right-wing Republicans insane? The facts speak for themselves.

Conservatively, Medicaid expansion would create 24,000 new jobs and expand health care coverage to an additional 260,000 uninsured people in the show-me-state.

But the right-wing of the Republican Party has repeatedly opted to NOT participate in the Affordable Care Act’s mandated expansion of Medicaid coverage.

In fact, over the past few weeks the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature has rejected Medicaid expansion five times, in-spite of thousands of phone-calls, letters, emails and in-person visits from constituents all across the state.

According to provisions in the ACA, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016, while paying at-least 90 percent of the funding thereafter.

But some Republicans, including the Senate budget chairman, Kurt Schaefer, and House budget chairman, Rick Stream, refuse the federal funding because it isn’t the “right fix” and because “Medicaid is broken.”

Since when is paying 10 percent of the cost of anything the wrong fix? Aren’t Republicans supposed to be good at economics!

This is a win-win, Messrs. Schaefer and Stream.

Not only would Missouri residents have billions of their tax dollars returned to them through Medicaid expansion, not only would expansion offset the cost of current uninsured care, which is something all Missourians pay for through higher premiums, but also expansion would also conservatively create 24,000 new jobs.

How is that a bad idea?

Additionally, if Missouri does not expand Medicaid, an estimated 40-50 percent of rural hospitals will be forced to close, while other hospitals will cut jobs and reduce services. And at the same time, families and small business will pay higher premiums, totaling an estimated $1 billion in increased cost to consumers.

The radical (again, I’m being rhetorical) Missouri Hospital Association estimates that rejecting Medicaid expansion will cost the state 9,000 jobs, a net loss of 31,000 jobs – if you include the 24,000 jobs that could have been created through expansion.

How is that the “right fix,” Mr. Schaefer? Doesn’t rejecting Medicaid expansion just break Medicaid more, Mr. Stream? Or is that the real goal?

Many in the Missouri Medicaid coalition – a coalition consisting of faith, labor, community and disability rights organizations and small businesses, representing hundreds-of-thousands of Missourians – are optimistic, and say that there are still avenues available for passing Medicaid expansion.

A leader in the Missouri Medicaid coalition recently told this author, “We shouldn’t read too much into the republican posturing. It has less to do with Medicaid, and more to do with positioning for future elections.”

However, he also thinks the current debate around Medicaid expansion is “insane.”

So to answer the question: Are Missouri’s right-wing Republicans insane? It depends who you ask.

I think they are completely insane. I also think they don’t give a damn about ordinary Missourians. They want to break Medicaid, while obstructing job creation and push the burden of paying for their mismanaged economy onto our backs.

And if that’s not prudent government, I don’t know what is! (Yes, I’m being rhetorical!)

Photo: Tony Harris, a retired leader of the American Postal Workers’ Union in St. Louis, making phone calls for the Missouri Medicaid Coalition urging passage of the Medicaid expansion. Charlie Edelen, MO Jobs with Justice.


Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.