Women's Voices has joined the Cover Missouri Coalition, joining our partner organizations including Missouri Health Care for All, the Missouri Medicaid Expansion coalition, Missouri Jobs with Justice and others.
Cover Missouri is a project of the Missouri Foundation for Health to promote quality, affordable health coverage for every Missourian. Groups from across the state have joined together "to build awareness, facilitate enrollment, increase health insurance literacy, and support Medicaid transformation. Coalition members will share learning and best practices, maximize resources, identify challenges and opportunities, and build an inclusive plan to insure Missourians."
We are pleased to be a part of this new organization created to provide information and help those entering the health insurance marketplace for the first time and to continue efforts to educate Missourians about the Affordable Care Act.
August 14, 2013
The battle to provide Medicaid coverage to 280,000 uninsured Missourians continues, with members of Women's Voices at the forefront.
The Medicaid Expansion Coalition, of which Women's Voices is a member, set a goal to present 1,000 witness forms to the Interim Committee on Medicaid Eligibility and Reform when committee members met in St. Louis on Aug 14. That morning, two large boxes filled with more than 1,750 testimony forms were presented to the committee.
At a press conference prior to the hearing, Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation said that health care for all is simply a moral imperative. An expanded Medicaid program could have helped Women's Voices member Melanie Shouse, who died from breast cancer after delaying treatment because of inadequate medical coverage. Also at the press conference, Erica Neal described her fear that, unless Medicaid is expanded, in January she will have no insurance and be unable to pay for tests to monitor her ovarian cancer.
At the hearing, more than 200 people crowded into the auditorium at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Ninety-eight were scheduled to appear before the committee. Health care providers, mental health professionals, leaders of social service agencies and others testified on behalf of Medicaid expansion. One of them was Mary Clemons, Women's Voices president, who described Women's Voices an all-volunteer, multi-issue, education and advocacy organization not affiliated with any religious tradition. "We are women who enjoy quality health care, but we want all Missourians, including the 280,000 low income uninsured who would qualify for Medicaid under expansion, to have the same access to care that we have," Clemons said.
June 2, 2013
Between violent thunderstorms on May 31, two members of Women's Voices joined with other health care advocates in Eureka, MO, for what was billed as a "post-session listening tour" by Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones. Publicity for the event described it as an opportunity "to discuss the accomplishments of the 2013 legislative session," but WV President Mary Clemons and Board member Barbara Paulus wanted the Speaker to hear about the impact of the legislature's failure to expand Medicaid.
According to Mary Clemons, the group was met at the closed door of Speaker Jones' office by two law enforcement officers. When they asked to be admitted, they were told that the listening tour was over and a private party was in progress. After repeated requests and reminders that the tour was advertised as a public event, the Speaker relented and came outside.
A Catholic Sister who was with the group reminded Jones of the lessons he supposedly received from the Catholic church about caring for the least among us. "My heart hurts for the families who will continue to be uninsured," she said.
The speaker responded by saying that Jesus taught personal responsibility, and that government should not be "doing all these things; people should, faith-based groups should." Mary Clemons responded that those who would be added to the Medicaid program are "responsible adults - hard-working, low-wage workers unable to afford health insurance."
At the end of the confrontation, the Speaker announced that two committees are being formed to study Medicaid in Missouri, and committees will meet during the summer.
Women's Voices will remain vigilant in the effort to expand Medicaid; look for our announcements and action alerts.
Rainy Saturday Doesn't Delay
or Keep Our Health Care Advocates Away
April 30, 2013
When members of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee came to O'Fallon on Saturday, April 27, to hold a hearing on conceal/carry permits, they got quite a surprise.
They were greeted by 75 activists holding "Burma Shave"-type slogans, calling for Medicaid Expansion Now. Inside the hearing room, along the back wall, a phalanx of letter signs spelled out, "EXPAND MEDICAID."
When the hearing began, it was evident there were more people interested in Medicaid expansion than any other issue. Women's Voices member Bunnie Gronborg was one of several allowed to testify. She and others remarked that they own guns, but they are more concerned about the lack of health insurance for 260,000 Missourians. They also warned that legislators will be held responsible for any delay in expanding Medicaid.
Thanks to Joyce Borgmeyer, Joyce Clark, Ruth Ehresman, Alice Geary and Bunnie for representing Women's Voices at this event.
Full Medicaid Expansion NOW!
April 17, 2013
At the end of Women's Voices April educational program on Medicaid expansion, Professor Sidney Watson asked the audience: "What do we say?" The crowd of almost 100 people responded with a boistrous "Full Medicaid Expansion NOW!."
That cry was the theme of a rally and lobby day in Jefferson City on April 16. Women's Voices members joined 2,800 fired up Missourians from all areas of the state to urge legislators to include Medicaid expansion in next year's budget, and they forcefully insisted that it be expanded to the full 138 percent of the federal poverty level. This would provide health care for 260,000 uninsured Missourians.
At the afternoon rally in the rotunda, Joe Reagan, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce, reiterated that the Chamber "supports full, affordable access to health insurance." Commenting on the current stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid, Governor Nixon remarked that "It's easier for workers to get health care in Missouri by quitting a job. It's not right!"
The following members and supporters of Women's Voices participated in the event: Bunnie and Gary Gronborg, Barbara Paulus, Sue Bohm, Joyce Clark, Mary Clemons, Rea Kleeman, Ruth Ehresman, Roxanne Miller, Ann Mandelstamm, Carolyn Crowe, Judy Uglade, Alice Geary, Sharon Hollander, Susan Cunningham, Marty Rulo, Deb Lavender, Nelda Carlise-Gray and Dixie Buford.
President Provides Testimony For Medicaid Expansion
February 22, 2013
A bill to expand Missouri's Medicaid eligibility to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level was filed in the Missouri House of Representatives. Mary Clemons, president of Women's Voices, provided the following written testimony for a hearing scheduled for Feb. 25:
Testimony in support of HB627
Submitted to Missouri House of Representatives Government Oversight and Accountability Committee
My name is Mary Clemons. I am the president of Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice. Women's Voices, an organization of 560 women, supports the expansion of Medicaid (Missouri Health Net) and urges you to vote in support of this important bill.
Currently Missouri has such strict eligibility restrictions that a single mother earning more than $3,500 a year is not allowed to enroll in the Health Net program. And single adults without children don't qualify at all. Our disabled neighbors who earn more than $792 a month aren't eligible for coverage. Choosing between caring for your family or buying needed medication isn't the kind of choice our citizens should have to make. As I heard someone say recently, our safety net has holes. We have an unprecedented opportunity to patch the net and give over 250,000 uninsured Missourians needed health coverage.
I would hope that this bill would have bi-partisan support. The diversity of groups supporting Medicaid expansion - from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Association of Social Welfare, and the many organizations in the Missouri Medicaid Coalition - makes it clear that this is an issue that resonates across political party lines and in communities across the state - urban and rural. Studies have shown that expanding the Medicaid program would provide needed jobs in the state. And the studies have shown that our hospitals, particularly in the rural districts, would be at risk without the expansion. And as governors across the country who had not supported the new health care law are now realizing, Medicaid expansion makes good sense. As Gov. Rick Scott said this week, "While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care."
Women's Voices for Social Justice commends Representatives Hummel and Kirkton and the sponsors of HB627 and urges the Committee to move this bill forward for the benefit of the citizens of Missouri.
Medicaid Expansion Campaign Kickoff
Over 20 Women's Voices members and friends joined nearly 200 St. Louis area residents on Wednesday morning, January 16 at Kirkwood Baptist Church to voice support for the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri.
Dr. Scott Stearman, Senior Pastor at Kirkwood Baptist Church welcomed everyone saying that expanding health care was an issue of such importance that he had no hesitation offering his church as the location for the Press Conference.
"Missouri has one of the stingiest Medicaid programs in the country, " said Dr. Sidney Watson, Professor of Law at St. Louis University Center for Health Law Studies one of 6 speakers at the event. "A single parent earning $292 a month working 10 hours a week has too much income to qualify under the current system. If you work, you can't get Medicaid. " She explained that expanding the program would allow 255,000 working families to receive Medicaid benefits. "If we don't expand Medicaid it will be hard for people, stress our economy and stress our hospitals. Expanding Medicaid is good for the economy, good for jobs. It is the smart thing to do."
Expanding Medicaid is also the right thing to do, according to Megan Burke, Senior Policy Analyst for Paraquad. It will reduce barriers to the disabled giving them the freedom to live independently. She told of a disabled man, a single father raising his children and unable to stay on Medicaid if he earned more than $792 a month. "Choosing between caring for his family or purchasing medicine should not be his only option. The safety net is not so safe; the net has holes," said Ms. Burke. "Missouri can be better."
Judy Bentley, Founder/CEO of CHIPS (Community Health-In-Partnership Services) began her free clinic 20 years ago and finds it heartbreaking that the free clinic is still a necessity. "We sent our legislators to Jeff City to take care of us. It is time they do it!" she exclaimed.
A client at CHIPS, Yvonne Samuel, told of working for 29 years at The Post- Dispatch before taking early retirement. A two time cancer survivor now with no insurance she can no longer choose her hospitals and doctors. She may be turned away for lack of insurance. For her, "Medicaid is a gift I cannot open." She says, "I want a gift I can open." Medicaid expansion would be that gift.
James Shortall, diagnosed with a mental illness, has lost his job, can't afford insurance and is not currently eligible for Medicaid. He also takes care of his disabled son. Medicaid expansion "will help me and help my son," he explained.
The clients at Grace Hill Community Health Center, "are not trying to get a free ride from taxpayers," said Judith Gallagher, Nurse Practitioner. "They are taxpayers."
Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation, closed the press conference by saying that money from the federal government to fund Medicaid is our tax money and we Missourians want Medicaid expansion, "right now!"
Attending the event was Festus resident, and Women's Voices member, Bunnie Gronborg who said she drove to Kirkwood because she has had hard working family members and friends who have been seriously ill, without insurance, who could have been helped by expanded Medicaid. She agreed that Medicaid expansion "makes economic sense, and to those of us who see health care as a moral imperative, it makes moral sense."
Organizers of the press conference were members of a state wide coalition representing over 20 organizations. Women's Voices is a member of the coalition. Similar events were held in Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri.
The coalition website is http://www.momedicaidcoalition.org,
and you can follow the coalition on Facebook.
Medicaid Expansion: Will Missouri Measure Up?
A major part of the Affordable Care Act calls for states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income residents. Missouri does not have a good track record when it comes to making Medicaid more available. Some of our state legislators have already indicated that they have no intention of extending coverage, even though the Federal Government will cover 100 percent of the expansion cost for several years.
Members of Women's Voices believe that all Missourians should have access to quality, affordable health care, and that expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do. Here's why:
Beginning in 2014, Medicaid expansion in Missouri would provide health care coverage to as many as 308,000 Missourians.
If Missouri does NOT expand Medicaid, most of our 308,000 low income state residents would have no health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act would provide 100 percent of the funding for the expansion until 2017.
Between 2017 and 2019, Missouri would begin to pick up some of the cost of coverage. In 2020, federal financing would cover 90 percent of the cost, and Missouri 10 percent.
Missouri's cost for the expanded coverage will be offset by the savings from uncompensated care. The state will no longer need to help hospitals with the cost of care they provide to uninsured patients who can't pay for the services they receive. .
Federal financing will have a significant positive impact on the health care industry in the state as well as the economy in general.
WV President Speaks Out On Health Care
The recent election cycle featured numerous comments about "keeping government out of health care." But what does this really mean? Women's Voices President Mary Clemons pondered this in a letter to the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, which was published on Nov. 16. Following is the text of the letter:
Stream & Government Out Of Health Care?
I read with interest the Nov. 9 article, "Stream over Lavender in Close Rep. Race" in which it is reported that "...Stream said he feels the government needs to be kept out of health care as much as possible."
I am unsure what Rep. Stream means. Does he mean keep government out of my Medicare? Medicare has provided quality services to all of us 65 and older and to those disabled and unable to work
Does he mean keep government out of Medicaid? Without Medicaid our working poor would have no routine medical care. Without Medicaid many of our nursing homes and care centers would close their doors.
Does he mean keep government from paying for our federally-funded health care centers? Without these centers our low-income neighbors would receive no ongoing care for chronic problems.
Does he mean keep government from helping hospitals by providing funds for uncompensated care?
Does he mean keep government from providing health care for our veterans, those who fought for our country?
Or does he mean he wants no government interference with our private, for-profit insurance companies - companies that until the government "interfered," denied insurance for pre-existing conditions, denied coverage to women for pregnancy, and have typically spent more than 15 percent of their premiums on salaries and compensation for their executives while increasing premiums without notice?
Or does he mean keep our state government out of the business of requiring a health insurance exchange that would allow small businesses and individuals to compare policies and choose one that meets their needs? With that "solution," we will now have the federal government plan our insurance exchange.
Who we really need to keep out of health care are legislators who obstruct needed health care reform instead of working and compromising to see that the system works for us all.
Mary Clemons, President
Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice
What's Next For Health Care In The U.S.?
Even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act was passed and the re-election of President Barack Obama assured that many of its provisions will be implemented, the path to providing all Americans with easy access to quality, affordable health care remains uncertain.
On Nov. 14, 2012, Women's Voices members Joyce Clark, Mary Clemons and Bunnie Gronborg participated in a conference call sponsored by Faithful Reform in Health Care, a national organization. One of the call leaders was Amy Smoucha, a Women's Voices member who is now a field organizer for Families USA in Washington, D.C
According to Smoucha, the first hurdle to full implementation of the ACA will be at the national level. Medicaid and Medicare are vulnerable to possible cuts in the upcoming budget talks, as are tax credits designed to help subsidize health insurance for low income individuals and small businesses.
Smoucha urged all call participants to call or write their U.S. representatives and senators and tell them that Medicaid is a lean, efficient program. Legislators should be reminded that most seniors are not wealthy people; almost half of Medicare recipients live on less than $22,000 a year. Legislators who supported the Affordable Care Act should be thanked and reminded that reducing the benefits of the program is not in our best interest. They also need to know that tax credits are essential when insurance exchanges are in place, so eligible individuals and small businesses can purchase affordable insurance.
Members of Women's Voices believe that America thrives when we have a strong, healthy middle class. When our working families can go to the doctor when they are sick, they are productive members of society. They keep our businesses strong, and provide a brighter future for our children. Seniors have worked hard and deserve a Medicare program that provides quality care with choices that help keep them in their own homes. Seniors and the disabled deserve the improved Medicare program under the Affordable Care Act that closes the donut hole, provides wellness exams and free preventive services.
There will be more hurdles along the path to securing health reform in America. Members of Women's Voices are determined to continue to work on these issues.
Stay tuned to learn how, and then join us!
Women's Voices President Responds To Governor's Comment
Just hours after the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, WV President Mary Clemons fired off a letter to the editor of several state-wide newspapers. Within minutes of receiving her e-mailed letter, the editors of the Kansas City Star and the Springfield News Leader contacted her to let her know they would be publishing the letter.
In case you missed it, here it is:
Missouri's Governor: On The Wrong Side Of The Law
Recently Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was quoted as saying, "I think I've been pretty clear...that the health insurance mandate is not something that I think is a good thing." And when questioned later about his comment he went on to confirm that belief. It is now clear that he is on the wrong side of the law.
Now that the individual insurance mandate has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court, it is time for our Governor to stand on the side of Missourians and be a voice of support for implementing the Affordable Care Act, the law of the land.
It IS good for Missouri to have:
a health care law that provides subsidies to low income citizens to purchase health insurance;
a law that will create insurance exchanges making it possible for individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable insurance;
a law that helps our seniors with prescription drug costs; a law that protects families from being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions;
a law that ends the gender gap and gives women equal access to health insurance;
a law that allows everyone to receive preventive services with no co-pay;
a law that keeps young adults on their parents' policies until they reach 26;
and a law that protects us from excessive insurance rate increases.
What would be also good for Missouri is having our Governor speak out in support of access to quality, affordable health care for all our citizens.
Health Care Panelists Tell Their Stories to Secretary Sebelius
The benefits that accrue to older Americans from the two-year-old Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were outlined in detail on Monday, March 19, when Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, listened to a panel of St. Louis residents.
One of the six panelists was Women's Voices President Mary Clemons, who outlined the many preventive services she has received, with no co-pays, since the Act was implemented. Thanks to the new legislation, Medicare now covers a number preventive services, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and bone density testing, free of charge. Clemons also described the advantages of a free annual wellness visit with her physician and the benefits of having a "medical home," which the Act encourages.
Other panelists who told their stories to Secretary Sebelius were Rona McNally, project director for the Missouri Senior Medicare Patrol; Dr. William Fogarty, a retired internist; Carol Weidner, whose health problems and expensive medications forced her to fall into the "doughnut hole" of the current prescription drug plan; Fritzi Lainoff, who has benefited from the 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D, and Amy DeWein, a pharmacist who founded the Senior RXAccess Program which serves older adults in community, homebound and independent-living settings.
The program was sponsored by the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans. According to Judith Parker, panel moderator, the purpose of the event was to focus on "real people who have had real contact with the Affordable Care Act." Millions of Americans have already benefitted from the legislation and Medicare has actually gotten stronger as a result of it, Parker said.
"Since the health care law took effect, people across the country have started to see its benefits in their own lives," Secretary Sebelius said. "And that is especially true for seniors, who continue to save money and see a stronger Medicare program because of the law."
Members of Women's Voices have been working for health care reform and access to quality, affordable health care for all since the organization was founded in 2005.
Members Testify At Hearing on Insurance Rate Review
Women's Voices member Sue Bohm presented testimony at the hearing of the Missouri House of Representatives Health Insurance Committee. She told her personal story of exorbitant health insurance premiums and showed the increases over a four-year period.
Read Sue's testimony here.
Member Sidney Watson, professor of Health Law at St. Louis University, presented testimony as an expert witness.
Members Testify At Senate Hearing
Nine members of Women's Voices turned out to support the planning, funding and implementation of a health insurance exchange in Missouri when the state Senate Interim Committee on Health Insurance Exchanges met in St. Charles on Nov. 10.
Sue Bohm told of paying $18,000 a year for individual insurance policies for her family of four, and stated that she has just learned the premium next year will reach $21,000. Barbara Richter told of her problems in negotiating for insurance for employees when she and her husband had a small business. An exchange would have helped her find the best policy without having to go from company to company and agent to agent before purchasing a plan that she didn't understand and that ultimately did not provide the services her employees needed. Mary Clemons spoke on behalf of all of the women in Women's Voices. Read their remarks here.
Sidney Watson, Women's Voices member and professor of law, Center for Health Law Studies, St. Louis University, told the committee why Missouri should set up its own exchange rather than allow the federal government to create one under the Affordable Care Act. Members Amy Smoucha and Stacey Sickler were responsible for the large number of attendees at this hearing. There was standing room only, and it was estimated that 75 percent of those in attendance were supportive of the ACA and Missouri implementing health insurance exchanges. Members Joyce Clark, Bunnie Gronborg and Jeanne Bubb also attended the hearing. Of the 37 people who testified, only seven were opposed to creating a health exchange in Missouri.
You Can Help Move The Affordable Care Act Forward
Women's Voices has joined 130 other organizations by endorsing the Missouri Health Care for All principles affirming that every Missourian should have access to quality, affordable health care, no matter where they live or how much money they make.
Women's Voices is advocating for two important provisions of the Affordable Care Act. One is the development of an insurance marketplace (health exchange) where individuals and small businesses can compare and choose health insurance policies that fit their needs. Another is the creation of a rate review process for Missouri which would give consumers the ability to easily compare insurance premiums offered by all carriers.
Here are ways you can help:
Numbers Count - Endorse Our Principles
Legislators can be influenced if they know that tens of thousands of Missourians stand for health care justice. We want you to add your name to those of the 7,400 individuals who have endorsed the Missouri Health Care for All principles. Read the principles, and if you agree, you can add your endorsement by clicking the link on that page.
Stoies Speak - Tell Us Yours
Has a member of your family been eagerly awaiting turning 65 to become eligible for Medicare? Is the deductible or co-pay (or both) so high on your health insurance that you put off going to the doctor? Are you thrilled that your grandchild with a medical condition who is in his early 20s is now able to stay on his parents' insurance? Tell us your experience with the health care system and what you think needs to be fixed.
The Women's Voices Health Care Advocacy group is collecting stories relating to problems with health insurance, such as rate increases, huge premiums and high deductibles which have interfered with your ability to secure affordable, quality health care. These stories will be used by Missouri Health Care For All, Jobs With Justice, and other groups when advocating for implementation of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
Contact us at with "Health Story" in the subject line (or print this form and send it to the address at the bottom of the form), and we will arrange a time to talk with you. We will then put your account into a narrative form for use on a website or in a publication. We may also use it as testimony for legislative hearings or public meetings. After talking with us, you can choose whether to have your name made public or to remain anonymous when your story is released.
If you don't have a personal story, you may have a friend or relative who does. Please urge them to share their story with us.
With your stories, the organizations on the ground will have the tools they need to demand quality health care for us all.
Presentations on the Affordable Care Act
Over the last year members of the Women's Voices Health Care Advocacy Committee have coordinated power point presentations for groups interested in learning about the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Participants in the programs were pleased to learn how the new law affects them and their families. Their questions were answered by expert presenters from Missouri Health Care For All, Jobs With Justice, or the Missouri Foundation for Health. Several more presentations have been scheduled for the fall of 2011.
To request a presentation for your group send an email to
and a member of our committee will contact you.
Questions about the Health Care Act?
These documents show how the law affects us all and what it means for children, seniors, workers, small businesses and more. You can also see a time line of when some of the important changes will take effect.
This short, animated movie — featuring the “YouToons” — explains the problems with the current health care system, the changes that are happening now, and the big changes coming in 2014.
Written and produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Narrated by Cokie Roberts, a news commentator for ABC News and NPR and a member of Kaiser’s Board of Trustees. Creative production and animation by Free Range Studios.