February 29, 2024

Funding dilemmas in Missouri

The US state of Missouri has withdrawn Medicaid funding for equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchair batteries, feeding tubes and walkers unless patients are pregnant, blind or in nursing homes. It is estimated that 340,000 of 1 million people in the state will be affected. A spokeswoman for Governor Matt Blunt says that the cuts will not “impact access to life-sustaining nutrition” and that he “upholds the values that reinforce the right to life”. The measure is fully supported by the state legislature, but is highly controversial.

In a stinging editorial, the St Louis Post-Dispatch points out that it is possible to apply for “exceptions” — except that most people have not been informed of them, that they need a supporting letter from their doctor; and that more than 90% of the appeals examined so far have failed. The architect of the economy measures was recently named Governor Blunt’s chief health care advisor.

The protests over the cuts have overshadowed the governor’s other health care battle over stem cell research. He is a strong supporter of therapeutic cloning and wants desperately to keep anti-abortion lobbyists from passing a bill which would effectively ban embryo research in the state. This threatens a US$300 million expansion program for the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City and the loss of jobs for stem cell research scientists. The governor of the neighbouring state of Illinois has offered jobs to these scientists if Missouri turns sour on stem cell research.