State lawmakers seeking cost cuts can look in the mirror

10/14/2013 1:07 PM

10/14/2013 5:14 PM

In early October, CBS News aired a story on Missouri’s refusal to expand its Medicaid health program.

State Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis area Republican, was asked to explain why the state denied public health insurance for residents in a weird “doughnut hole” — those making too much for traditional Medicaid, but not enough for subsidies in the new health care exchanges.

Too expensive for taxpayers, Lamping said. “We’re trying to make the best long-term decisions that we can.”

Well, here’s a short-term decision Lamping and his colleagues could make if they really want to save money: end their own taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

That’s right. Lamping and his General Assembly colleagues — and lawmakers in Kansas, too — are eligible to buy health insurance as state employees, with taxpayers subsidizing the premiums.

We don’t know whether Lamping uses the state health plan. His office didn’t respond to a question about the issue, and the state said the open records law doesn’t apply to state workers’ health insurance purchases.

But the policy is clear: State lawmakers, who rejected taxpayer-supported Medicaid for 450,000 Missourians and Kansans, can easily get taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families.

Now, you could call Topeka or Jefferson City today and complain. It’s likely you won’t reach your state lawmaker, though, because it’s a

part-time job

. Neither statehouse is in session.

But at least some part-time legislators think their taxpayer-supported health coverage is pretty dang important. Missouri state Rep. Paul Wieland, an Imperial Republican, is suing the federal government, trying to force it to force Missouri to offer him a health plan without contraceptives coverage.

Wieland has a moral problem with contraceptives. He’s free to seek the coverage he likes on his own, of course, but this he will not do. In court filings, he calls his taxpayer-subsidized family health insurance a “valuable benefit.”

Why, yes it is. Just ask anyone in the Medicaid doughnut hole.

In Washington, some Republicans want to stop taxpayer health insurance subsidies for themselves and thousands of full-time federal workers. The “Vitter amendment” would require those workers to buy coverage on the exchanges, without any employer help.

Sounds like a plan, Kansas and Missouri lawmakers. Try dropping your taxpayer subsidies and buying your own health insurance.

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