Activists coverage on Capitol

Rally on the steps of the capitol brings people with disabilities and their families together from across the state.

Greg Salzer

Rally on the steps of the capitol brings people with disabilities and their families together from across the state.

Greg Salzer

JEFFERSON CITY – Red shirts, worn as a symbol of solidarity, were common apparel at the capitol April 27.

Over 1,000 disability activists from around the state, representing at least 10 organizations serving the disabled community, gathered at the capitol to urge legislators to respect persons with disabilities by undoing cuts made to Medicaid with the passage of Senate Bill 539.

“Medicaid cuts are bad for our health and economy,” said Kelly Anthony of Parquad Inc. “People’s lives are placed in jeopardy when vital health care and community cervices are cut back.

The loss of $400 million of federal funds would cause Missouri to lose jobs and economic activity generated by health care spending.”

Workshops were held in the morning, followed by a march around the state capitol.

Many of those participating wore red shirts with phrases such as, “Don’t disable our Independence,” “Our home not a nursing home” and “I see the (dis)ability, do you?”

While marching, participants chanted, “These cuts won’t heal.”

David Gates spent part of Disability Day volunteering at the registration table before taking part in the march around the capitol.

“They should be more willing to help you if you are willing to help yourself,” Gates said.

Gates, who lives in Kansas City and came to Jefferson City with People First, expected to move to an HMO managed health care plan later after the issue, paying the premium himself with the state assisting him with co-payments.

People First is a self-advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities. There are over 40 chapters with 1,000 members across Missouri.

“No help with co-payments because you are helping yourself,” Gates said of the Medicaid bill signed by Gov. Matt Blunt on April 26.

“We are willing to join the private [health care] sector to help the state and get better health care than what I can get from Medicaid,” Gates said.

Darryl Scott who traveled from South St. Louis for the event spoke about the effects the Medicaid cuts.

“The cut is going to hurt most in the black community,” Scott said before the march.

In his neighborhood, Scott said there are many single mothers, some with five or six kids.

“How are they going to get their medicine without Medicaid,” he said. “It’s going to hurt my race.”

“If they cut Medicaid, they are taking my life for me,” Scott said.

In response to Blunt’s statement that the cuts are necessary to protect working Missourian families, Scott said, “It’s hurting us worse.”

During the campaign, Blunt promised to protect Medicaid eligibility level by combating fraud and making Medicaid more efficient.

“I am not very pleased with Blunt,” said Vicky Weaver of Fayette.

Weaver worked for thirty years as a nurse before becoming disabled.

Weaver said she never got a letter asking her to confirm her eligibility.

“I don’t think he really tried,” Weaver said.

Weaver has received three generated form letters this year informing her she will no longer be eligible for Medicaid.

The first letter said her Medicaid ended April 1. The subsequent letters moved the date up to June.

Weaver and her two teenagers live off of $599 income a month — $590 from Social Security Disability and $9 from Social Security Supplementary insurance.

Weaver said the new maximum income limit for a family of three is $591, placing her just $8 over the Medicaid eligibility line.

The four prescriptions she has to take for her disability cost $600 per month, costs now covered by her Medicaid.

Weaver stood waiting for the march to begin while holding her sign that said, “Will Missouri have jobs for the Ugly? Healthy bodies = employment.”

Lana Wyseman, of Grass Roots Organization, is a Medicaid consumer on general relief who is slated to have her medical coverage taken away.

She has no income.

A stroke has left her left side numb, and she had a second stroke two weeks ago.

“I’m so angry I have to be here to fight to stay alive,” Wyseman said.

“I will be dead within a year if I lose my coverage,” Wyseman said.

Wyseman had been working with Rep. Mike Sutherland (R-Warrenton) on protecting the rights of mobile home park residents this session (House Bill 475) until he voted for the bill cutting Medicaid.

“Why did he vote to kill me,” Wyseman said.