Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Providing Efficient, Effective Health Care - by Missouri Senator Jack Goodman

This week, your Missouri Senate gave first-round approval to legislation providing health care to more Missourians by making more efficient use of an existing source of revenue. With the current national economic crisis, we are seeing more and more uninsured individuals forced to visit Missouri’s emergency rooms for routine medical care. Under federal law, taxpayers are obligated to absorb the cost of these ER visits. Senate Bill 306 will save taxpayers money by focusing on preventive, proactive health care and reducing expensive trips to the ER. Giving patients access to less expensive health care that will prevent minor conditions from developing into serious conditions is better for patients and a better investment of taxpayer dollars. The legislation received preliminary approval this week, and one more passing Senate vote will send it to the House for similar consideration. Without raising taxes, the bill will expand health care coverage to approximately 35,000 working, low-income Missourians who are currently uninsured. It establishes the Show-Me Health Coverage Plan within the Department of Social Services to provide health care coverage through the private insurance market for these individuals. This program will provide benefits similar to those available under MO HealthNet (formerly Medicaid) and will focus on preventive care. If minor health issues are addressed before they become major health issues, we can avoid paying higher costs and draining taxpayer resources down the road. When crafting this plan, we were extremely careful to protect taxpayers from an additional burden. The funding for the plan would not come from additional taxpayer dollars. Rather, it would be funded by money that the state already receives from hospitals through taxes and other federal funding. As it stands, the plan would provide coverage for individuals making up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level, or $5,415 per year. For working parents, the plan would provide coverage for those with an earned household income up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or $22,050 for a family of four. The bill limits participation in the program to three years, with an option to extend it two more years if the individual is enrolled in a GED program or taking courses through a college or university. Coverage would not exceed five years. The bill will help people who are struggling through a difficult time to get back on their feet, while providing the incentive to improve their lives and start on the road to self-reliance.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Carnahan Releases Report Evaluating 2008 Elections

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's Office PRESS RELEASE

Voter, poll worker feedback used to identify issues and recommendations
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Secretary of State Robin Carnahan today released a report which examines the successes and challenges of the three statewide elections conducted in 2008. The report also identifies opportunities for improvements based on those findings. Voters First: An Examination of Missouri’s 2008 State and Federal Elections draws from the accounts of hundreds of voters, poll workers and election officials.
Voters First provides transparency and accountability in our elections process by analyzing and compiling feedback from all those involved. It also ensures taxpayers and voters know about the inner-workings of our elections.
“More Missourians voted in 2008 than ever before in our state’s history. Thanks to the diligent work of thousands of poll workers and the local officials across the state, each of the three elections was a success,” Carnahan said. “Before we move forward, we must look back and evaluate the process to ensure convenience, privacy and security for Missouri voters.”
The report finds that the elections administration in Missouri is effective in ensuring fair, accurate, and secure elections. As in previous elections, there were no incidents of voter impersonation fraud reported anywhere in the state. A new statewide voter registration database allowed local election officials to verify the identity of new voters and ensured clean, accurate registration lists.
Polling places across Missouri were staffed with well-trained poll workers and enough ballots to meet the record turnout. Additionally, increased security checks on voting equipment and expanded poll worker training allowed voters to cast their ballots with confidence in a system that is accurate and transparent.
The report did identify challenges for voters. Questions regarding registration and eligibility were the most common issues reported by voters on Election Day. Many voters reported that they were not aware of requirements for updating their registration if they moved to a new address. In August, concerns over electioneering and the party ballot selection process in primary elections were also common.
Long lines also proved to be an issue in some areas of the state. In November, voters at some polling places reported that they had to wait in line for several hours before they could cast a ballot. Poll worker surveys showed that long lines are not only an inconvenience for voters, but a burden on poll workers as well.
“I would love to see Missouri have early voting like other states do,” said one Jackson County poll worker. “That would solve many problems for not only poll workers but for voters as well.”
The report makes 30 recommendations to local election authorities, the General Assembly, and the Secretary of State’s Office based on the findings. Those recommendations include: passing a law implementing early voting in Missouri; exploring ways to increase the portability of voter registration for those who move; and increasing the maximum penalties against those who violate election laws.
The report is also accompanied by an expansive appendix, which includes Election Day call logs, educational mailers, correspondence, poll worker training materials, polling place posters, news releases and other key resources.
The full report may be viewed online here: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/VotersFirst/2008/