House Committee discuss a potential solution for healthcare
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House Committee discuss a potential solution for healthcare

Date: November 28, 2007
By: Bria Scudder
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - More than two months after Missouri's Republican governor unveiled his proposal for expanding health care coverage, the Republican chair of a House committee on poverty is drafting an alternative.

"Anytime you can do something, smarter, more efficient and less expensive, everyone wins." said Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon.

She said that Gov. Matt Blunt's Insure Missouri plan benefits insurance companies more than the taxpayers. "There's nothing innovative abut enriching the pockets of insurance companies.", said Davis.

The governor's plan would expand government=financed health care that provides coverage for lower income.  Davis' plan would provide funds to lower income persons to purchase private insurance for health care coverage.

Davis presented her proposal at a meeting of the House Interim Committee on Poverty earlier this week.  At the session, a researcher with a conservative think tank urged the lawmakers to move away from expanding government programs to deliver health care coverage.

Beverly Gossage, a research fellow with the Show-Me Institute, said that funds that go toward health  programs should be turned into vouchers. The vouchers would then go toward buying private health care policies or employer plans. She said that high-deductible plan would cost less for the individual while discouraging unnecessary medical-care visits.

"Now we're treating them like adults," Gossage said."They'll have a better understanding as consumers."

The private-plan approach ran into opposition from a member of the Senate's Health Care Committee.  Instead, Sen. Harry Kennedy D- St. Louis, expressed tentative support for the Republican governor's Insure Missouri approach. 

Kennedy said Blunt's plan looks "somewhat workable on paper. We need to wait and see how it is implemented." He said he believes that the governor's health care plan shows that Blunt is "finally seeing the light" after he had 90,000 people put off of Medicaid.

Davis, the House committee's chair, said that free health care "could encourage people to over consume." Considering the number of people that are becoming addicted to prescription drugs, Davis said that people may use free health care irresponsibly.  "People don't have the motivation to show restraint.",she said while picking up a release on teens and prescription drugs.  She also expects the new plan to cost about half of the current government spending.

Kennedy, however, questioned how the private-insurance approach would work for those with serious medical problems.

"If you have a child that's quadriplegic and epileptic, where are you going to get insurance? Nowhere." Kennedy said that he hopes that we look for other ways to balance the budget, other than on the backs of the poor and disabled."

Gossage said that most people with severe pre-existing conditions would be referred to the state government plan that provides coverage when pre-existing conditions cause insurance to be affordable.

Davis said that this plan would help tackle the abuse of health welfare systems. Gossage said that having private health care would prevent people from going to the doctor every time they have the sniffles or a splinter. Also, this program would not effect the free health clinics that are in service today.

"That sounds like Republican Rhetoric from Washington," Kennedy said. "They're all singing out of the same songbook." He said that they should go after the providers rather than cut people off to solve this problem.

"This is the only idea that doesn't treat you like a heard of cattle.", said Davis. She said that she thinks this plan gives people freedom to make choices. "It preserves their dignity.", she said.