Democratic candidate for Governor Jay Nixon pledged Tuesday to restore medical coverage to 389,811 Missourians who lost it back in 2005 under Governor Matt Blunt's cuts to the Medicaid program.
Nixon made the announcement during a 3-city campaign tour Tuesday, just a day before the two Republican candidates for Governor debate at KY3-TV in Springfield.
"When Gov. Blunt slashed health care from 400,000 Missourians in 2005, he created a health care crisis that has only gotten worse," the Attorney General said. "Missourians lost coverage over night, families who still had insurance saw their premiums skyrocket, and our state turned away nearly $2 billion in federal health care funds. We must fix our broken health care system, and that starts by restoring coverage to every Missourian who had it slashed in 2005," he added.
Here are the details of the Nixon plan:
- Restore coverage/benefits to 400,000 by drawing on hundreds of millions in federal matching funds. The cost: $265 Million. This would also draw $696 Million dollars from the feds.
- Restoring coverage to 28,500 children, reaching out to families eligible for SCHIP but not enrolled, allowing families over 300 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase coverage for children through SCHIP
- Establish "Show-Me Health" consumer web page, a one-stop-shop for Missourians to compare health care prices and benefits
- Conduct strict performance reviews of the current system, aimed at modernizing delivery and management
- Ensuring access to pre-natal care, improving immunization rates for children and access to dental and vision services
The Missouri Budget project offered lukewarm support of the plan Tuesday. "There are currently 770,000 Missourians who are uninsured and don’t receive the preventive health care that they need,” said project director Amy Blouin. "While this measure would help a portion of those folks, Missouri must continue to come together and work in a non-partisan manner to ensure that these measures pass within the next legislative session."
The state Republican party quickly issued a statement questioning why Nixon defended similar healthcare cuts enacted by Gov. Bob Holden. "In 2003, Jay Nixon, without a word of dissent, went to court to defend Holden-enacted Medicaid cuts," said Tina Hervey, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party.
"Nixon supported the Holden Medicaid cuts before he was against the Blunt Medicaid reforms. It sounds a page from the John Kerry political handbook," Hervey tells the KY3 Political Notebook.
UPDATED 9:15 P.M. . .Nixon campaign spokesperson Oren Shur e-mailed this response to the G.O.P. criticism: "As Attorney General, Jay has a responsibility to defend the state's laws, whether he agrees or disagrees. Quite frankly, he's had to defend lots of bad laws, particularly during these last four years. Cuts to health care certainly fall into that category. Hulshof and Steelman insist on looking backwards rather than offering a plan to address the health care crisis we currently face because of Matt Blunt's cuts -- cuts that both of them wholeheartedly support," Shur said.
Republicans claim Nixon would have to implement a nearly $1 billion dollar tax hike in order to pay for the plan, but Nixon has said he can do it by drawing on federal funds that the state has been rejecting.
In response a new Democratic spokesperson, hired solely to handle the Governor's race challenged Republican candidates Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof to outline their own healthcare plans.
"It’s been roughly six months since Steelman and Hulshof embraced cutting people’s Medicaid coverage. In all that time, they still haven’t offered any of their own ideas about health care beyond a vigorous Viagra debate,” Missouri Democratic Party Spokesman Zac Wright said.
"Missourians are left to wonder if either Republican will finally address the proverbial elephant in the room at the debate or just continue embracing Matt Blunt’s agenda of slashing thousands of people’s health care and driving the premiums up for everybody else," Wright added.