The Voters of Missouri Passed Medicaid Expansion. The Republican Controlled Legislature Won’t Fund It

We, the citizens of Missouri, fought hard to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. I was one of the 23 people known as the Medicaid 23 who were arrested, tried, and convicted for making too much noise about it one day in the Missouri Senate. Exhortations, demonstrations, and civil disobedience didn’t move the Republican reactionaries running the state legislature, so the citizens collected signatures and had it placed on the ballot. It passed.

But the Republican Party has become so toxic, mean, and anti-democratic that Missouri Republican legislators are refusing to fund health care for our fellow human beings too poor to obtain it under the Affordable Care Act but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. “The House Budget Committee voted along party lines not to pass a bill allowing Missouri to spend $130 million in state funds and $1.6 billion in federal money to pay for the program’s expansion” (https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article250170945.html).

There is no doubt that the white male, racist, rural, religious-fanatic, controlled legislature is out of step with the majority of Missourians. However, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and money to keep urban voters at a disadvantage. A feckless Democratic Party doesn’t help matters much either.

The Medicaid 23

We were a group of community activists who met at Reverend Hartzfeld’s Missionary Baptist Chruch on Linwood Boulevard. Prior to his death a few months ago, Reverend Hartzfeld was the patriarch of the Kansas City African American community. I was honored to be included in the group that decided that decided to carry out a protest at the state senate to express our outrage over the lack of medical care for poor people – for no other reason than they are poor.

Legislators would not meet with us or even respond to our letters, emails, and phone calls. Se we went to the capitol to get their attention. We demonstrated in the gallery while the senate was in session. We were told to shut up and we didn’t. We were arrested, and, after a three day trial, convicted by a white jury in the middle of Missouri. Tony Messenger wrote this in the St. Louis Post Dispatch: “This trial has the foul odor of history.”

Here is a picture of the “criminal” Medicaid 23:

The tall young white man in the front row was one of our lawyers. He is also a Republican in the Missouri House of Representatives. He fought hard for us and was also outraged by our arrest. Reverend Hartzfeld is the man with the cane in the middle of the front row.

The DNC, President Obama, and Change We Can’t Believe In

During the past week, I have received three phone calls from the DNC.  Rather, I have received three phone calls from DNC-hired fundraisers.  They wanted money.  I thought my crankiness during the first call would have been warning enough about me as a difficult customer to give pause to any subsequent caller.  But naively, I failed to realize that I am just a name in a database through which a dialing machine churns– nothing more, nothing less.

Why would I give these people money?  I have already blogged about the “Obama/DNC Listening Tour” that I attended (during which no one was listening).  Now I see that President Obama will be sinking us deeper into the quagmire of Afghanistan.  Did he forget that he is president by virtue of Hillary Clinton’s vote on the Iraq War?  Had it not been for her militarism, she would be president instead of Barack Obama.  He was the anti-war candidate.

President Obama’s tepid support for real health care reform has indeed been puzzling.  Is he willing to make more deals with Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson?  Will the DNC be giving these obstructionists to decency and social justice money to run their next campaigns?  I want to know that.  I would rather support  primary candidates against these destructive, pro-Republican turncoats.  Rahm Emanual can tell us that we are f…ing stupid for criticizing another Democrat, which he has said.  Since he is a big part of the problem these days, I would say,  f… him.

Apparently, Emanual has been successful in purging Greg Craig from the Obama Administration.  This is a bad sign.  Craig was one of the members of the president’s inner circle who was pushing for adherence to the spirit of the Obama campaign.  That was a campaign that inspired many of us to give money, walk neighborhoods in Missouri, and heartily celebrate Barack Obama’s election

I think we need a very quick and serious course correction by President Obama at this juncture in his administration. 

Remembering Darryl Ringer: Charismatic Farm Activist

This Thanksgiving, I can truly give thanks for having known and worked with farm activist Darryl Ringer from Quinter, Kansas.  Darryl died in a farm accident in 1993.  At the time he was killed, he had gained national stature as an activist on behalf of farmers who were losing their farms to banks in foreclosure actions.

I am proud to say that I offered my couch to Darryl as a place to sleep as he traveled the state in 1988 and worked with us on the Jesse Jackson campaign.  His charisma, intelligence, and organizing ability were phenomenal.  His death left a gaping hole in the progressive movement.

In memory of Darryl, I suggest that we support the actions of the National Farmers Union, which represents 250,000 farming and ranching families. The Farmers Union is pushing for a strong, viable, government-run, health insurance program.  Farm families are finding the cost of health care out of reach due to the nature of the insurance cartel.  For instance, 69% of health insurance policies in Nebraska are written by two insurance companies.

The other farm organization, the Farm Bureau, is opposing the bill passed in the House of Representatives.  Since the Farm Bureau represents large corporations and the agricorp industry as a whole, it opposes the provision of HR 3962 that requires employers to provide health insurance or pay some rather severe penalties.

HR 3962: Does It Go Far Enough?

Thanks Congressman Moore 

Today Congressman Dennis Moore (D-KS) generously gave Eric Kirkendall and me time to discuss health care reform with him.  We expressed our concerns about the public option as it is framed in HR 3962, The Affordable Health Care for Americans Act.  With only 2 billion dollars in seed money and a clause that excludes a “bailout” if the program cannot sustain solvency, the public program may be set up for failure.  Due to negotiated “fee-for-service” reimbursement to providers, a likelihood of higher risk customers, and competition with private insurance conglomerates, the public option will have an uphill battle as is.    

Also, the public option will not provide insurance until 2014 (as the bill is written).  In the meantime, the uninsured will still need to buy insurance in a high risk pool.  What will that cost?  A healthy middle aged staff member for the Congressman said that she would have to pay $500 per month with a $5000 deductible.  In other words, she would be paying $500 per month for nothing, unless she was unlucky to suffer a catastrophic illness.  A woman who has just opened up a small business in Lawrence told me she was denied insurance due to some minor surgery for endometriosis.  She was told that she would not be able to buy insurance, outside of the risk pool, unless and until she had a hysterectomy.  Her female organs, being a perceived risk for insurance companies, had to go.  She refused to do that and is buying insurance in the risk pool for $350 per month with a $10,000 deductible (per year).  Essentially, she is handing over $350 a month to an insurance company for nothing. 

The language in HR 3962 regarding state risk pools is vague.  We don’t know what will be available to the uninsured until the public option kicks in.  If a few U.S. Senators in our party (Democrats, with the exception of Joe Lieberman), succeed in destroying the public option altogether and, therefore, any meaningful health care reform, all of this will be a moot question.  However, if a public option like the one included in HR 3962 comes out of Congress in the final analysis and is signed into law, we will need to intensify our lobbying.  I think the Congressman is in a position to help us out.  We need to maintain communication with him and his staff. 

Keep lobbying at the local level and push back on K Street.