With apologies to British rockers Dire Straits, the creators of the 1985 hit with the lyrics ever so slightly modified, the above-referenced line could be the slogan of the Kansas City Star’s own Barbara Shelly as she pushes for Medicaid expansion as a necessary part of Obamacare….
I was intrigued earlier this year when I saw on The Star’s “Faith Calendar” for Sunday, March 10th, that “Barb Shelly” (no introduction necessary) would be speaking that day at the Unitarian Universalist “Church” (sic).
It turns out that “Barb’s” remarks were the worship service and the subject of her remarks was “Struggling for The Affordable Care Act.” (Don’t you just hate how the Religious Right mixes politics and religion?) Who was struggling only became clear when I got there. As our gal Barb put it, she was the one struggling to get Obamacare implemented, as was her paper, by writing and publishing “countless unsigned editorials” on the need to expand Medicaid in Kansas and Missouri as part of Obamacare.
Many smarter and better informed people than I am could make compelling arguments pro and con on the issue. I also realize that the situation is different in Missouri and Kansas, although many of the same questions exist in both. In other words, I think I can say this is a complex mix of policy, tax, and medical considerations with no easy answers.
Not for Barb Shelly.
Why wouldn’t Kansas and Missouri embrace the expansion of Medicaid? After all, the hundreds of billions of dollars promised the states by the federal government ($750 million for Kansas) is “FREE MONEY.” Those were her words!
Never mind the promise to pay the states’ share of the costs of expanding the program is only that, a promise. Never mind that the Feds’ commitment to cover the state’s share of increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers runs out after three years. Never mind that the states have been handed a fiscal time bomb of unknown dimensions. Somehow money from the federal government is like manna from Heaven; it comes at no cost, with no strings attached according to our moral and intellectual betters down on Grand.
Shelly also seems unbothered by the fact that the other two-thirds of the federal safety net (Medicare and Social Security) are already actuarially insolvent. Why not go for broke? Literally! Go big or go home. No one questions the need to strengthen the safety net in hard times but do we really want to permanently increase the share of the general population totally dependent on Medicaid from 23% to 30%?
At one time families with incomes of up to $56,000 per annum qualified for Medicaid assistance in Missouri. Since the median family income is now $52,000 nationally this would mean that something like 60% of the population would qualify for assistance in Missouri if that cut-off still applied. (Governor Matt Blunt tightened eligibility and thus prevented the rest of the state budget from being swallowed by Medicaid spending only to be rewarded by thousands of cute bumper stickers reading, “No More Blunt Trauma!” He was out after one term.)
All this is “irrelevant, immaterial, scurrilous, and redundant” (as we say in the law), according to Barb and the Star Editorial Board. Remember, she said, the alternative is “health insurance company executives with seven-figure salaries making decisions on your health care.”
This was too good to be true, so during the Q & A I asked her how many of the McClatchy Company’s executives made seven figure salaries. Barb feigned amnesia on this particular point so I gave her the following fun facts on her publishers’ compensation: Five of The McClatchy Company execs made compensation worth over a million dollars a year, one over four million.
EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION: THE McCLATCHY COMPANY
Gary Pruitt (Chairman) $4,491,610
Patrick Talamantes (CEO) $1,655,804
Elaine Lintecum (VP/CFO) $800,000
Mark Zieman (VP) $1,473,218
Robert J. Weil (VP) $1,402,327
Karole Morgan (Secy.) $1,231,234
What is an “obscene” salary for an insurance company exec is apparently only a living wage when you work at a newspaper publishing company. I’m glad the Star has taken such a principled stand against income inequality when I see these figures.
My only regret is that such opportunities don’t present themselves every day. To paraphrase one of my favorite presidents, “Soon you won’t have the Kansas City Star to kick around anymore!” I for one will be deeply sorry if that ever happens.
Without their ignorance, mendacity, and arrogance what would I write about?