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Nixon asserts GOP wants low-income children 'working in coal mines' to get health care

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 18, 2009 - Gov. Jay Nixon deviated a bit from his standard bipartisan pitch when he called Saturday for fellow Democrats to help him fulfill a dream in 2010:

Gain control of the Missouri House.

"A Democrat as speaker of the House would be really useful,'' Nixon told several hundred Democrats gathered for the state party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Renaissance Grand Hotel downtown.

"Please. It would be a great favor to me.''

In particular, Nixon said a Democratic majority in the 163-seat House would make it easier to expand health care coverage to at least some of the tens of thousands of Missourians who lost coverage when Republicans cut the state's Medicaid program in 2005.

He recounted his frustration at coming up with a program to expand coverage to 35,000 adults that needed "not one penny'' in additional state money. The Missouri Hospital Association was agreeing to come up with the money to match federal funds, for a total of $147 million.

"In a party line vote, the House rejected spending zero money,'' Nixon said, adding that he was grateful that the Missouri Senate -- also controlled by Republicans -- approved the basic financial framework of the healthcare proposal.

"I'm optimistic we can get it done,'' Nixon said.

But he acknowledged that House opposition likely had killed, at least this session, his quest to expand the federal State Childrens Health Insurance Program to another 20,000 low-income children.

With sarcasm, Nixon asserted that House Republicans apparently believe that low-income children "are supposed to work in the coal mines, get dust on them on all day ... and then they can get health care."

He added that his health care goals made financial sense for all Missourians because those with insurance are paying higher premiums to over the emergency-room care for the uninsured. The only way to reduce insurance premiums, Nixon said, was "to cover more people.''

Nixon didn't include the GOP-led Senate in any his jabs, reflecting in part the political reality that Republicans will control Missouri's 34-member Senate for the foreseeable future. The GOP now holds 25 of those seats, a veto-proof edge, after winning three more seats last fall.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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