Blunt to push health care at national level
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Blunt to push health care at national level

Date: March 26, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB577

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Blunt was appointed to a national health care reform panel Thursday for his work with the proposed Missouri HealthNet. The appointment comes despite criticism HealthNet has received from detractors who say it's good, but it could be better.

Blunt was chosen to work with the National Governor's Association's health care panel because "clearly the governor has been a leader in health care reform in the state," said the governor's spokesperson, Jessica Robinson.

"As far as health care goes, there's a lot going on in our state," Robinson said.

The panel was created to produce recommendations for federal health care action. The group will also create a series of  Web sites to emphasize the design and implementation of state health care changes.

"It's trying to share good news about what's happening in some states with other states," Robinson said.

But criticism came from Robin Acree, executive director of the welfare-advocacy group Grass Roots Organizing or GRO.

"If this (HealthNet) is their shining example, I'm a little concerned," Acree said. "So many other states are looking at getting people in, but this filters people out."

Acree, like many Democrats in the legislature, argued that the focus should be on restoring those that were cut from the state's health care program in the budget cuts of two years ago.  "It doesn't do anything to restore insurance to those they cut, it doesn't do anything to improve health care and expand health care."

The HealthNet bill cleared the Senate Health Committee just before lawmakers took off for their week-long spring break. During the break taking, the governor and the Senate's top Republican leaders visited a Columbia Jiffy Lube to describe how the increased technology included with the proposed plan is similar to the computer systems at the auto store.

Blunt said HealthNet will be technologically advanced with all medical records on-line so doctors and health care personnel can easily and quickly access the system.

"I was like, he's at a Jiffy Lube and he's talking about our health care?" Acree said.

At the Senate Health Committee hearing on the HealthNet plan earlier this month, Acree questioned the bill's provisions that would award health care benefit credits to recipients for lifestyle behavior.  "This is not a game to us, we don't want to earn credits," Acree said at the hearing.