While hundreds were outside the state Capitol in Jefferson City protesting their right to health insurance, some Missouri lawmakers were inside making animal noises, an opponent of the measure says.
The howling and growling came in response to state Rep. Rick Johnson, a Democrat, who compared a bill that called for the sunset of the state's Medicaid program to wild animals preying on the weak. Johnson says that the bill would eliminate coverage for about 100,000 of the state's most vulnerable citizens and reduce income eligibility to a scant 22% of the federal poverty level. Proponents of the bill responded with the animal sounds.
"That just shows you their level of maturity," Johnson tells Outliers. House Republicans did not return repeated calls for comment.
The bill passed 89-69 and was sent to the governor's desk where it's expected to be signed. All voting House Democrats were in opposition to the bill. "This is the worst bill I've ever seen passed," Johnson says.
State Sen. Chuck Purgason, a Republican and the lead sponsor of the bill, said estimates of the number of people who will lose coverage were overstated, and that some will regain coverage because of provisions added to the budget, which isn't complete.
The state's Republican governor, Matt Blunt, had called for the cuts because he said the program was too costly, but a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, said the governor had used misleading statistics when citing the cost of the program. Johnson says the bill would increase the state's overall health costs because former Medicaid patients would seek care in emergency rooms.
Despite this, the Missouri Hospital Association wasn't vocal about its opposition to the bill. The association decided to be relatively quiet during the debate on the legislation because the current political makeup of the Legislature made the cuts inevitable, an association spokesman says. The group said it hopes to work with the committee that will come up with a plan to revamp the Medicaid program.
Author has eye on Hopkins
Tom Clancy, a best-selling author and proud native of Baltimore, has developed a close connection to one of his hometown's best-known institutions, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In fact, he provided that august healthcare facility with some free publicity by making the wife of fictional CIA agent Jack Ryan a part of its medical staff. Cathy Ryan comes to life in the pages of Clancy's taut spy novels as a surgeon at Johns Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute.
Clancy, who donated $2.1 million in 2001 to the school's Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, happens to be well-versed in the quality of care at the eye institute. He's been seeing Johns Hopkins ophthalmologist Terrence O'Brien for treatment of pathological myopia, an abnormal elongation of the eye that is associated with extreme near-sightedness, a condition that can result in progressive and severe loss of vision.
Now Clancy is an official part of the institution, with his $2 million donation earlier this month to fund a new professorship in ophthalmology. Forsaking any suspense, the identity of the first Tom Clancy professor of ophthalmology should not come as a surprising plot twist: It's none other than O'Brien, Clancy's doctor and an expert in refractive eye surgery. We have a feeling that the celebrity-author will continue to receive excellent care -- maybe even without copayments.
The AIDS pouch
Those red wristbands promoting AIDS awareness may help or they may just confuse people as colorful wristbands for various health issues proliferate. The Living for a Cure Pouch may clear things up.
The wristbands go for $2, but for $12 you can buy the pouch, a bag that includes the wristband and AIDS information for the workplace, schools and churches. The material is targeted to all audiences, says Tracy Carr, executive director of the One Earth Foundation, a Decatur, Ga.-based AIDS organization. The pouches can then be used to carry school supplies.
Carr is especially worried about some low-income communities that she says are more susceptible to high-risk behavior that leads to contracting the HIV virus. And given the changing values she's seen in those communities making risky sexual behavior "the thing to do," she says that she's more passionate than ever about stopping the cycle.
"There's no cure for AIDS right now," Carr says. "The only thing we have is the education. If we reach someone, then we've made a difference," she says.
The pouches are available at 1earthfoundation.org.
In Outliers' continuing effort to promote nutrition in healthcare institutions, we spotlight Columbia St. Mary's, a four-hospital system in Milwaukee. It's luring a well-known purveyor of organic foods to occupy the ground floor of a medical office building on a newly redesigned campus on the city's lakefront.
The facility will open in November 2006 as part of a larger expansion of the campus. The system chose Whole Foods Market as the "retailer to anchor the building" for several reasons, says Leo Brideau, president and chief executive officer of the system. The store had to be large enough to fill 54,000 square feet. Plus, the hospital liked the retailer's healthy message. "For a healthcare organization, it's absolutely a terrific fit for us," he says.
With the hospital overlooking Lake Michigan and the nearby pool of 23,000 college students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Brideau says the area is lively and upbeat -- the ideal location for an organic grocer. Whole Foods would also serve as "real magnet," boosting foot traffic at the medical campus. "Traffic matters," he says.
Brideau says staff and patients have overwhelmingly approved the choice. "Given that we're dealing with an epidemic of obesity, to promote fast food in our lobbies is kind of strange," he says.