McCaskill: Survey Finds Local Vet Care Strong, AHCA Puts Rural Healthcare at Risk

May 26, 2017

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill says the healthcare markets are being “sabotaged” by uncertainty from the Trump Administration on whether it will pay subsidies to insurers and enforce Obamacare’s individual mandate provision.

The Democratic senator from Missouri, during a stop in Springfield Friday, was responding to a question on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City. Earlier this week, the company announced it is pulling out of the insurance exchanges next year.

McCaskill speaking on the MSU campus Friday, May 26.
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU

“Blue Cross Blue Shield said they withdrew because of the uncertainty,” McCaskill said. “It is unfortunate that the administration did not give them the certainty that everyone was expecting at the beginning of this week. And that was acknowledge they would continue pay the risk payments that are part of the law.”

Republicans like Sen. Roy Blunt and Congressmen Billy Long blamed the company’s exit on the collapse of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  

McCaskill said both the current law and the recently approved healthcare bill by House Republicans are being used as “political weapons,” and that the best solution is through a bi-partisan fix.

McCaskill filed a bill this week that would give consumers who don’t have an insurer in their individual market the option to buy insurance where Congress and its staff buys healthcare.

“That’s a nationwide program because members of Congress have staff in every state in the union. So why not let people take their subsidies, that they’re entitled to under the law, and buy on the same exchange that we buy?”

McCaskill, who buys her insurance the through the Missouri exchange, says she hopes to get the bill to the Senate floor for a vote before the enrollment period opens later this year.

American Health Care Act

McCaskill says the House-approved measure now in the Senate’s hands has her concerned about rural Missourians. She noted how the bill would increase costs for older Americans and significantly cut Medicaid benefits.

“It’s not for people who don’t have money in the cities it’s for people all over our state, particularly in nursing home, people with disabilities.”

The bill also doesn’t have “bulletproof protection” for people with preexisting conditions, according to McCaskill.

“I don’t think that bill will ever pass the Senate,” she said. “It they can’t get all the Republican votes that they would need to do it without Democratic votes, then I’m hopeful than we can get together and make changes in the current system that would make sense.”

Veterans and an Outburst

McCaskill was in Springfield Friday to deliver the latest results of her Veteran’s Customer Satisfaction Program. The questionnaire was first distributed at a St. Louis VA facility six years ago and has since expanded statewide. The 10 questions ask patients to rate their satisfaction on appointment scheduling, access, cleanliness, and wait times, among others.

Speaking from the Oldham Family Veteran Student Center at Missouri State University, McCaskill stated that Springfield had the highest score this year.

“Eight out of the 10 categories reported satisfaction levels above 80 percent. That’s pretty impressive. The biggest gains that they saw here in the Springfield region was ease of access and receiving the necessary care.”

Wait time to see provider and scheduling appointments were among the areas for Springfield that still need improvement in Springfield, according to the survey results.

While taking questions from reporters, one man in the audience, who identified himself as a veteran, offered thanks to the senator for her bi-partisan efforts. He then proceeded to call the current healthcare system “ruined.”

“I had 90 percent coverage. Not anymore. Didn’t cost me a thing – my employer provided it. But he could no longer provide it. Had to participate in a plan.”

He then spoke of the amount of homeless veterans, and added that the care veterans are receiving in the United States is “third world.”

“Ask this veteran what kind of care he got and he’ll tell ya,” as he pulled out a large bag and dropped it onto an empty chair. “Take that back to Washington,” the man yelled at McCaskill. He then immediately left the room. The room fell silent for several seconds before McCaskill invited other questions from the audience.

It was unclear the contents of the bag. Springfield News-Leader reporter Will Schmitt caught up with the man afterward, tweeting out that the package was described to him as a veteran’s remains. The bag remained on the chair through the remainder of the press conference.

Dark Money

The senator also fielded questions about new TV advertisements this week St. Louis and Kansas City praising McCaskill as a friend of veterans. The Post-Dispatch reports the $900,000 worth of ads are coming from VoteVets, in conjunction with the liberal political campaign group Majority Forward.

On Wednesday, The Missouri Republican Party’s director accused the senator of hypocrisy given her repeated calls for stricter disclosure rules on political spending. McCaskill has also taken aim at Gov. Eric Greitens, for whom a nonprofit has been formed to push the governor’s agenda.

Austin Stukins, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said in a statement, “Like every other career politician, she rails against something until it benefits her own political future. McCaskill should immediately call for these groups to disclose their donors, or take down the advertisements.”

On Friday, McCaskill said, “It doesn’t matter whether these ads are for me or against me. If you don’t know who paid for them, I think you outa ignore them.”