The Kansas City Star, Nov. 8
Numbers look good for Medicaid change in Missouri
One study after another has made the case that Missouri could vastly reduce its hefty number of medically uninsured residents and also improve its finances.
Now there is one more.
Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City, presented data this week showing how the state could get nearly all of its residents under some form of health coverage and achieve a modest savings while doing so.
His analysis works on the premise that the state would expand its Medicaid eligibility limits for adults to 100 percent of the poverty level. (Currently the threshold is 19 percent of the poverty level for parents, and nothing for childless adults.)
That would make insurance available to about 225,000 working adults. An additional 82,000 Missourians who earn slightly more than poverty wages would receive state help to purchase an insurance policy in the federally run exchange.
The federal government would pay for most of the Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act. And Barnes did a good job of showing how an expansion would relieve the state of some of its current expenses.
Missouri would save about $23 million a year in mental health costs that would be picked up by insurers, for instance. And better access to mental health care is projected to save the Department of Corrections about $9 million by avoiding incarcerations.
Some of the savings would be achieved by moving children in lower- to middle-income families out of Medicaid and into the insurance exchange. That's a concern, but preferable to the situation now in which hundred of thousands of working parents have no option at all to have health insurance.
Under the scenario Barnes has put forth, all low-income Missourians would have the ability to be covered, either by Medicaid or through a policy in the exchange. His numbers show a net gain for the state of $42 million a year once the changes are fully phased in.
Barnes' analysis drew immediate fire from lawmakers in his own party. Some questioned his estimates, calling them hypothetical and optimistic.
GOP legislators who question Barnes' numbers should present their own to demonstrate why his won't work.
For the past year, while the Medicaid expansion controversy has raged on, opponents have produced nothing more than vague mutterings about it being unaffordable. Not a single analysis has been presented to back up that claim.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 7
Illinois embraces marriage equality. Missouri embraces discrimination
It wasn't pretty, and it took too long, but Illinois has become the most populous state in the country's midsection to say "I Do" to same-sex marriage.
The House approved the bill legalizing gay marriage on Tuesday, following a yearlong legislative battle. It now goes back to the Senate for a minor technical change. Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign it. The law would go into effect in June.
That will officially make Illinois the 15th state in the country, plus Washington, D.C., to grant legal status to same-sex marriages.
Illinois lawmakers turned aside arguments from powerful state religious leaders, public rallying efforts and sustained opposition from conservative groups. There were stalled attempts this year to get the votes needed, but sentiment changed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June.
Illinois is not the only state that was influenced by the DOMA repeal. Laws barring gay marriage recently toppled in New Jersey, Minnesota and Rhode Island.
The Illinois action came shortly after the U.S. Senate voted to move forward with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The motion to move ahead got the support of every Democrat and some Republicans — including Mark Kirk of Illinois — making full approval in the Senate a good bet. House passage is far less certain, even if Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, allows it to come to a vote. On Monday the speaker said he opposes the legislation.
Bear in mind this is a bill that says only you can't be fired for having the sexual orientation you were born with.
The votes, both in Illinois and the U.S. Senate, come as polls show growing public acceptance of gay relationships and marriage.
A new Pew poll found that support has risen consistently since 2009. The most recent figures were 45 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. That's in contrast to 2010, where the figures were 42 percent pro and 48 percent opposed, and 2009, where support was 37 percent and opposition was 54 percent.
A Gallup poll from May 2012 shows even higher acceptance. That survey found 54 percent of American adults consider gay or lesbian relations to be morally acceptable, compared to 38 percent in 2002.
Gallup noted that those figures mirrored the growth in public support for legalizing gay marriage, which rose from 42 percent in 2004 to 50 percent or greater the past two years. Even higher figures were registered when people were asked whether gay or lesbian relations should be legal. That question got 63 percent support last year, roughly double what it was in 1986.
While it is great news that the arc of justice for gays nationwide is becoming rainbow-colored, it's still gray in Missouri. The state's voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and that doesn't look likely to change anytime soon. And in Missouri, you can not only be fired for being gay, you can be denied access to any public accommodation. Next June, gay couples in St. Louis can take the MetroLink to Belleville to get married and be kicked off the train on the return trip. Missouri should be embarrassed.
St. Joseph News-Press
Cameras' future in doubt
Officials in St. Joseph were right to follow suit with other Missouri communities that are suspending enforcement of their local red-light camera ordinances.
Perhaps on appeal the cameras will overcome an adverse court ruling this week. But for now, they face a serious question.
Public opposition has been muted in St. Joseph since the cameras were put in place in February at two locations on the Belt Highway. But it's a given that many citizens who don't speak publicly are uncomfortable with them.
This opposition doesn't mean the cameras should be shelved, but the court ruling might.
The Missouri Eastern District Court of Appeals on Tuesday described a critical issue that gave the jurists pause in examining a local ordinance in Ellisville, a St. Louis suburb.
The court's concern:
Presuming running a red light clearly is a moving violation, when Ellisville fails to report these tickets to the state for the assessment of points against a driver's license "the ordinance conflicts with Missouri law."
Like others before them, our City Council and police deployed red-light cameras at high-traffic intersections that are susceptible to this bad driving behavior. Our ordinance closely mirrors the one struck down in Ellisville.
Local authorities noted they lacked the resources to station an officer at these locations round-the-clock, and they noted safety concerns when officers try to pull over someone in a congested area.
This explanation for the program makes sense to supporters, but convenience in clamping down on a problem may not fly under state laws narrowly drafted to focus on drivers committing a serious offense.
Local authorities have wisely acknowledged this inconvenient truth and suspended enforcement until the legal issues are resolved — whether in the courts or the legislature.
Southeast Missourian, Nov. 10
The photo on the front page of the newspaper wasn't worth a thousand words. It was worth a thousand stories.
It wasn't what the photo showed. It was what was missing.
Food was missing. Shelves, once filled with food, were baron just as the holiday season begins.
The scene at the local Salvation Army last week told a story of a high rate of poverty in our region. It told a story of hundreds of people who have not been able to afford food. It told a story of hungry children and elderly, of broken hearts, of poor decisions, unfortunate circumstances and desperate measures. It told a story of more demand than our generous community had previously supplied.
"Anytime something is coming in, it's going out the back door," Capt. Ronnie Amick, who has been on the job since July, told reporter Ruth Campbell. "Right now, it's slim pickings. The shelves are completely empty for the most part. We have a lot of tomato product and a lot of green beans."
If you're reading this newspaper, there's a good chance you're living a lifestyle much more secure than those who have taken food off the Salvation Army's shelves. There will be many opportunities to help coming up.
Local Boy Scouts soon will conduct a food drive with items going to the Salvation Army. If they stop by your house, please find some food items to share. On Dec. 7, Wehrenberg Theatres will hold a canned film festival, where customers can be admitted to a movie for a canned good.
But you don't have to wait. You can donate now, either to the Salvation Army or another local food pantry. Many churches have their own pantries. ...
According to Campbell's reporting, the Southeast Missouri Food Bank serves 16 counties and 180 agencies, of which the Salvation Army is one.
The food bank is expecting to give out nearly 7.9 million pounds of food this year in Southeast Missouri.