Wednesday evening was political grassroots action in motion at the Phelps County Democrat Headquarters on Pine Street and it was Stephen Webber's party. Columbia-native Webber serves as chairman of the Democrat Party for Missouri and he was in Rolla standing before a dark blue placard on an easel that read “Healthy Missouri—More Options. Lower Costs.”
Wednesday evening was political grassroots action in motion at the Phelps County Democrat Headquarters on Pine Street and it was Stephen Webber’s party. Columbia-native Webber serves as chairman of the Democrat Party for Missouri and he was in Rolla standing before a dark blue placard on an easel that read “Healthy Missouri—More Options. Lower Costs.” Healthy Missouri is a party initiative that is state-focused on a health care system that the party thinks will be attractive to all Missourians.
The one-time Democrat State House representative (2009-2016) of the 46th District has been traveling the state the last 10 months to address issues that might galvanize the party, so they can start winning local elections. But Wednesday night, the message was succinct and one he feels is a very practical approach to make health care better for Missourians.
Webber began the meeting asking for a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, which he appeared to take seriously, ignoring a joke by an attendee about the current NFL debacle. He is a Marine, having served two tours of duty in Iraq, earning the rank of Sgt. and a student of political science, having received a law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in St. Louis. After the pledge, he wasted no time getting to the meat of Healthy Missouri.
“You guys are the first Democrats in the entire state to sit down and share what the Healthy Missouri plan is,” he said. Webber started with some history about 2010’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“Nobody believes the ACA is perfect—any bill that was passed seven years ago needs to be changed,” he noted. “We should always be trying to improve health care, because the services that people get, make sense.”
The overall crux of improving healthcare in Missouri, according to Webber, speaking for the Democrat Party, is expansion of Medicaid. He says it would make more people accessible to health care and create more jobs in the health care field.
“There are 260,000 Missourians that could have health care coverage tomorrow if we just expanded to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line,” he explained.
“The state has left several billion dollars in tax dollars that we haven’t brought into Missouri. We’ve let people go without coverage for nearly seven years and that money is still available. If you make minimum wage, then you make too much to qualify [for Medicaid]. Because the ACA was written for Medicaid expansion in mind, you’re in this gap where none of these federal tax subsidies apply to you.”
He said the working poor have the most difficult time affording health care. When health care is needed by this group, they will be served according to law, but the result is driving up the cost of insurance premiums for everyone. Webber also outlined cuts that have been made by the General Assembly this year, such as the MO-Rx program, which paid half of prescription drug costs to 60,000 eligible recipients until July 1 of this year.
There have been more cuts to in-home care, so approximately 8,000 people with disabilities that depend on in-home care, have lost that service, said Webber. He spoke of the opioid epidemic in the country. “We’re still the only state that doesn’t have a legislative prescriptive drug monitoring program,” he reminded the audience. “It prevents doctor shopping (a sign of opioid abuse).”
Webber says that every idea proposed at the state level is represented in cuts to the current ACA plan.
“We have an obligation to stand up and fight for people that can’t speak for themselves,” he said. “We have an obligation to put out our ideas and our vision and we are absolutely against cuts to health care. But we need to articulate what our plan should be. The Healthy Missouri plan does this.”
Chairman Webber and his small staff were headed down the road to St. Louis for more presentations the following day, but for now, he left Phelps County Democrats with something to chew on.
The Healthy Missouri executive summary:
* More consumer options: Increase competition and create more healthcare options for Missourians by allowing individuals to buy into Medicaid at actual cost.
* Lower prescription drug costs: After fully restoring recently cut resources to the MORx program, increase pricing transparency by forcing pharmaceutical companies to disclose information on price hikes, and ban pharmaceutical companies from giving physicians gifts.
* Increase access to healthcare: Enact a full expansion of Medicaid under the ACA.
* Fight the opioid epidemic: Create an actual comprehensive Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that gives prescribers the tools they need to prevent “doctor shopping.”
* Equal healthcare in every zip code: Take steps to close the gap in racial health disparities by making sure the Board of Healing Arts incorporates cultural awareness and a diversity training component into medical education.
* Protect and grow women’s access to contraception: Once again participate in the Family Planning Program in Medicaid to increase access to contraception for women age 18-55 in Mo., while saving the state over $9 million.
* Prioritize our veterans: Enable veterans to take time off from work, unpaid and with notice provided, to access VA healthcare for service-connected health conditions.
* Crackdown on fraud: Empower private attorneys with the authority to crack down on Medicaid fraud on behalf of the state to save taxpayers money and reduce healthcare costs.