Nearly one million low-income Missourians qualify for the taxpayer-funded Medicaid health care program. Now if you think about it, that number is amazing in itself. But the problem - as I see it - with Medicaid is that there is no incentive for recipients to change lifestyle behavior in an attempt to improve their health because every penny of their medical coverage is being paid by someone else.
Medicaid is an extremely expensive proposition too. In Missouri alone, federal and state taxes will provide $4.2 billion in funding for the health care program. In a program of that size, abuse is a certainty.
In an attempt to address runaway spending, the state Republican majority in the legislature has proposed cuts of $110 million for the Medicaid program in Missouri. Though that amount is sizable, it's just a drop in the bucket when you consider the total of $4.2 billion in expenditures.
Now before I rant on these spending excesses, let me throw a curve into the equation. I am against the GOP concept of these specific cuts. I favor cuts in that range but I would mandate wellness training for some Medicaid recipients in an attempt to change behavior. If those recipients choose not to participate in the mandatory wellness activities, then they would lose their eligibility and thereby save taxpayers some useless spending.
But that aside, I still favor cuts in this costly program.
On Wednesday, good Gov. Bob Holden - who strongly opposes any cuts in spending for Medicaid - held a public "hearing" in Kansas City on the topic. Now let's be honest, Holden held a campaign rally, not a hearing.
Every single person at the hearing spoke in opposition to the Medicaid cuts. This was not a hearing by any definition. It was a campaign stop for Holden to tout his compassion for the down-trodden and to generate some traction for his weak re-election campaign.
When politicians of either party stage events to generate publicity, that's part of the political process. But when those events are billed a neutral, fact-finding hearings, then the voters are being used.
A campaign rally needs to be just that - a rally in support of a candidate or position. But don't tell the voters that a "hearing" is designed to gather information when, in fact, it's clearly designed to promote a specific cause for a specific candidate.
The good Governor should know better. No one is being fooled.