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Activists Seeks Comprehensive Care

April 01, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 243

JEFFERSON CITY - Some Missourians don't think dignity gowns are enough - they want universal coverage. Activists clad in hospital gowns rallied yesterday to bring universal health care coverage to Missouri.

The skimpy gowns were intended to mock a bill by Sam Gaskill, R-Washburn, that would require hospitals to offer "dignity gowns" to patients that cover them from neck to knee.

"We don't want neck to knee coverage - we want head to toe coverage," one poster read.

"It's time for more appropriate legislative action," said Dr. Don Kay, a professor of internal medicine at MU.

Kay said it was "heartbreaking" for him to see farmers lose their property to pay bills to University hospital and clinics.

Advocates noted a plethora of health-insurance bills - and said it's time for more meaningful comprehensive coverage.

"Since I have a pre-existing condition, I can't find coverage," Robin Acree, an activist with the Reform Organization of Welfare. "The premiums in the high-risk pool are atrocious," she added.

State Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, has proposed legislation that would expand Missouri's high-risk pool - and bring premiums down from 200 to 135 percent of standard rates.

While Kay said he thought Harlan's proposals were "good things," he said they weren't nearly enough.

"We need to break the link between employers and health coverage entirely," he said.

A bill for universal coverage, sponsored by Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City, has not yet been reported out of committee - so it's not likely to get far this session.

Part of the reason may be cost - the fiscal estimate is nearly $6.4 billion dollars in 2002. The plan would be financed by a payroll tax and an income tax surcharge.

Because it includes a tax increase, it would have to submitted to Missouri voters.