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Medicaid and marijuana might be the two issues that most divide Democratic candidates seeking to succeed state Rep. Stephen Webber in the 46th District Missouri House race.

Martha Stevens and Cathy Richards gave similar answers to many of the questions posed to them Friday during a one-hour forum before the Boone County Muleskinners, but they were split on whether Missouri should expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act or legalize marijuana for medical use.

  • Cathy Richards

  • Martha Stevens

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    Stevens enthusiastically supported Medicaid expansion and the proposal for medical marijuana likely to be on the November ballot. Richards was less supportive, arguing that past state cuts to the Medicaid program should be restored first and questioning whether marijuana would be properly regulated.

    As Boone County public administrator, Richards handles the affairs of people placed under her guardianship.

    “I have had some clients, actually, who would get ahold of it because the doctor said so,” she said. “There really wasn’t anything wrong, the doctor just went ahead and said so.”

    Stevens and Richards are competing in the Aug. 2 primary in the district that covers parts of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth wards in Columbia. The winner will face Don Waterman, who is unopposed in the Republican primary.

    Richards emphasized her experience in office, which she has held since 2008, and her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats in Jefferson City. She told the Muleskinners that she helped push through a bill allowing people on Medicaid to have savings accounts up to $2,000, double the current limit.

    Stevens, who has worked for Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, told the club her work organizing grass-roots support has prepared her for the office.

    Kay Callison, a member of the Boone County Democratic Central Committee, directly asked Richards about Medicaid, noting some news reports have quoted her as opposing Medicaid expansion.

    Richards said she wants the cuts to Medicaid services enacted in 2005 restored before considering whether to add more people to the rolls. She wants people to have health care coverage, she said.

    “I am for it, but I don’t necessarily want to tap Medicaid for it,” Richards said. “I would like to see us go beyond hitting something that is already overworked.”

    Stevens, whose most recent job was organizing support for Medicaid expansion, said the economic benefits of using the Affordable Care Act to pay for health care should outweigh any misgivings. Stevens said expansion would cover 300,000 people, bring in $2 billion of additional federal money and generate a savings of $81 million.

    “This is a no-brainer, and it is something I am really passionate about,” she said.

    The 2010 law offered states heavy subsidies to expand eligibility for working people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Through the current year, the law paid 100 percent of the cost. In future years, a small state share, capped at 10 percent, is required.

    The Medicaid program currently operated by the state, called Mo HealthNet, has a variety of eligibility levels depending on age, income and other factors.

    No adult without children is covered unless they are older than 65 or disabled.

    The current program costs $10 billion annually, with about 40 percent paid using state tax funds. Despite strong support from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, Republicans who control the General Assembly have voted down every attempt to add Missouri to the 31 states that have expanded the program.

    Callison said she was not pleased with Richards’ answer.

    “What I heard is that under the Affordable Care Act, she is opposed to the expansion of Medicaid,” Callison said. “This is extremely important.”

    Richards explained her reluctance to embrace expansion, saying she worries the promised state share will be increased.

    “The federal government is $19 trillion in debt,” she said. “We are going to end up with the cost of this, regardless.”

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    Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act,


    Health Insurance,

    Cathy Richards,

    Stephen Webber,

    Martha Stevens,

    Boone County Muleskinners,

    Legalization Of Marijuana

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    Richards, Stevens at odds over Medicaid expansion during forum
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