Following Governor Mike Parson’s announcement that he would break his promise to Missouri voters & attempt to block their constitutional right to Medicaid expansion, Missourians gathered across the state to express their anger, fear, and defiance of the Governor’s political antics. From Kansas City to St. Louis, Springfield to Columbia, and small towns in between, hundreds of Missourians turned out to reiterate that Missouri Medicaid eligibility is expanding for more than 275,000 Missourians on July 1st.
In Kansas City, speakers included Terrence Wise who said “I have July 1st marked on my calendar. And it’s staying marked because that’s the day that my state constitution says I and my family can apply for Medicaid and go see a doctor without skipping meals, or utility bills, or going bankrupt.” Terrence continued “I haven’t been to a doctor since I was 18. For these last 20 years ‘hope and pray’ has been all I’ve been able to do when it comes to my health. And that’s sad.”
Terrence was joined by other uninsured Missourians and those who have lost loved ones because of the cruel and deliberate decisions made by Missouri politicians. Through intense emotion, Autumn Stultz, a Springfield parent who cares for her mother, said “I am a strong individual, like most Missourians, and we do not back down and we do not stop fighting. I am angry. But I am still here standing and I am not going to let these politicians stop me from taking care of my family or having my constitutional rights fully respected.”
Dozens in the crowd chanted “What do we want? MEDICAID! When did we want it? TEN YEARS AGO” to mark how long this fight for Medicaid expansion in Missouri has been going on. Across the state, members of the Medicaid 23 joined in, including The Rev. Dr. Tex Sample and the Rev. Dr. Vernon Howard in Kansas City, along with the Rev. Dr. Emmett Baker in St. Louis.
Other faith leaders joined this statewide day of action, including Pastor TJ Appleby in Springfield who preached “When push came to shove, Gov. Parson pushed and shoved Missourians away from the door that would finally give them access to quality health care. Flowery words and bluster are cheap, and totally worthless to the 275,000 Missourians struggling to hold on to good health.”
Health care workers shared story after story of patients who are in need of the quality health care that Medicaid expansion will provide. “Just because we don’t want to pay for heart attacks doesn’t mean they don’t happen,” said Dr. Heidi Miller, Medical Director of St. Louis Regional Health Commission and Primary Care Doctor with Family Care Health Centers. “We have wasted time in denial, circling between the myths of telling our patients – ‘You’re not good enough for Medicaid’. But by wasting time, wasting the truth, we have wasted lives.”
Between speakers, chants continued including “This is what democracy looks like” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop”
“The fact remains that Missouri voters put Medicaid expansion in our state constitution because all Missourians want to make sure we can get the care we need to get and stay well – no matter where we live or how much money we make,” said Glen Winfrey of Columbia, who helped gather signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot. “And while politicians in Jefferson City like to divide and distract us – I’m siding with the constitution over their political antics.”
Natashia Pickens, President of Communications Workers of America 6355, added, “For most of us, if we make a mistake at work, there are consequences, so why does Governor Parson think that he’s exempt? He doesn’t even have a voicemail so that he can hear from the people who are suffering because of his choices.” Pickens then directed rally attendees to share their feelings and frustrations with Governor Parson by calling 877-311-6932. Missouri Jobs with Justice set up this hotline as the Governor’s office does not have a phone system that will accept messages from constituents – another bold example of Gov. Parson’s refusal to fulfill the basic requirements of his position.
Rallies in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, and Columbia were live-streamed and can be viewed here and other photos from events across the state here – that will continue to be updated as rallies continue throughout today. A full list of speakers in each location can be found here.