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Letter: Medicaid needed to safely provide nursing home care

Letter: Medicaid needed to safely provide nursing home care

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Rally to Save Missouri Health Care

Jenna Roberson from Wentzville holds a sign wile listening to speakers at the Rally to Save Missouri Health Care outside the Missouri State Capitol Building in support of Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Jefferson City.

Photo by Daniel Shular

Regarding “‘It’s just shocking’: How Missouri Republican politics drove twin crises in Medicaid” (May 24): The Missouri Legislature’s hesitancy in renewing its usual year-to-year funding for nursing home patients residing in Medicaid beds is beyond comprehension.

Missouri probably doesn’t want to gain negative attention if nursing homes fail and Medicaid patients are expelled. However, Missouri did gain national and international attention in 1957 when our country’s worst nursing home fire took more than 70 lives at Warrenton’s Katie Jane Home. I was a visitor that day when we heard the cry of “Fire!” and experienced the black, oily smoke curing along the high ceilings. No fire alarm was heard. The front door main exit became clogged with visitors and ambulatory residents trying to flee. It was not long before the screams of many of the bedridden were silenced as smoke and fire consumed them. How was it that this home had been approved for a state license?

As words and pictures of that horrific disaster spread to the national media, officials in Missouri and other states began to examine their nursing home regulations. Soon laws about safety requirements began to improve.

In those days, before Medicaid, an individual’s ability to pay for care was primary. To its credit, the Katie Jane Home took in some residents who were receiving but a pittance in pension income. Now our country has Medicaid; its funds are important in providing safe, basic nursing care for those who need it but cannot afford it. The Missouri Legislature should not wait to act on this matter.

Grace Poertner, R.N. • St. Charles

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