HME protestors get tough with Missouri governor

Thursday, March 31, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Discarded walkers, crutches and prosthetic limbs littered the rotunda of Missouri's Capitol building in February during a protest organizers hoped would send a message to the governor about the impact of his proposed Medicaid cuts.
A sign reading "The Governor's Waste" was posted next to a trash bin full of durable medical equipment, the centerpiece of protest that drew a crowd of 80 to 100 people.
"We keep hearing the governor say that there is so much waste and fraud and abuse that we felt we should just expose what it is he is calling waste," said Robin Acree, executive director of Grassroots Organizing (GRO), which co-sponsored the event with Paraquad. "Prosthetic limbs, medications, wheelchairs and walkers -- that's the kind of thing that Gov. [Matthew] Blunt is cutting from folks, and we just wanted to raise awareness among the general public that these are not wasteful things."
The governor's proposal would cut all adult durable medical services from the state's Medicaid budget (see story page 4). It also calls for changing the eligibility requirements so that only those people whose incomes are 30% or below the federal poverty level would receive benefits.
"Our members have indicated that health care access is their No. 1 priority," said Acree. "Most of them are either sick or have physical and mental challenges that require access to health care services, so what are they supposed to do but fight back. We just organize them.
GRO also organized a march on the governor's mansion.
Durable medical equipment providers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the cuts in less obvious ways. Members of the Midwest Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (MAMES) are instead touting the cost-saving and life-saving benefits of durable medical equipment directly to their local legislatures, who will vote on the proposed cuts later in the legislative session.
"[GRO] definitely handled it in a different way," said Brady Vestal, MAMES's chair and a DME provider. "Whether or not its effective, well, that may be questionable."