Higher Education in Missouri is facing a looming $66 million cut in the state budget. The government needs to make difficult decisions at the state and local level to make ends meet. Programs will have to be cut and sacrifices will have to be made.
Therefore, we support Missouri House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey’s plan to eliminate the Supplemental Aid to the Blind program, which would save $28 million in state funding to reallocate to public colleges and universities (see story here).
At first glance, taking money from the blind seems cruel. However, we must not jump to conclusions before learning the facts. This program funds medical care for approximately 3,000 people who make too much to receive Medicaid health care but already receive state blind pension payments.
Therefore, Silvey’s plan would not be leaving the blind empty handed — they still would be receiving monthly Blind Pension program payments of $707, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services website, and it would only affect those who legally make enough to pay for their health care.
To qualify for Medicaid, annual income cannot exceed 85 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of four, 85 percent of the FPL is $18,998, according to covermissouri.org. As of 2011, Medicaid covers more than 900,000 Missouri residents, 27 percent of which are aged, blind or disabled, meaning 82 percent of aged, blind or disabled people are able to pay for their health care based on Missouri eligibility rules. Supplying state-funded health care to the blind people in the 82 percent of that demographic who can afford it is a waste of money.
Through both the Blind Pension program and the Supplemental Aid to the Blind program, the blind receive state-funded health care, something deaf and paralyzed people do not qualify for. We think that if deaf and paralyzed people are not eligible, blind people shouldn’t be either.
A mark of a civilized society is to help people with disabilities function as normal as possible. However, we think Silvey’s plan would not be putting the blind at a financial disadvantage because of the existing pension program. Higher Education, though, would be at a disadvantage without such funds.