KSMU Interviews Missouri Gov. Parson On Nursing Homes, Individual Liberties During Pandemic
Missouri Governor Mike Parson spoke with KSMU's Jennifer Moore this week about the coronavirus pandemic in Missouri.
Listen to the interview here and find a summary below.
Q: Other than closing doors to visitors, what is the state doing to protect the elderly in long-term care facilities?
Parson: "We are now able to what we call box-in testing like in the St. Louis nursing homes where up there we have so much trouble. You know, a month ago, 45 days ago, we didn't have the ability to go in there and test everybody in those locations at the same time, which we do have now. So the thing we're doing right now is we're trying to test all nursing homes across the state to be able to check and try to, you know, one, to make sure we don't get into a situation where it spreads to the nursing homes any faster than it does. And the other thing is, is, you know, we've expanded the protocol for or for reporting it or who needs to be tested or what might lead to the coronavirus.
"So I think we we've got about all hands on deck for our nursing homes in the state. We're putting a real emphasis on that. We're actually using the National Guard to help with part of the testing to get make sure we got more people available for those nursing homes. And again, it's just one those areas we know we've got to keep a really close eye on because this virus is still here," Parson said.
Q: Has there been any talk about increasing the oversight of nursing homes during this dangerous time, like maybe more inspections?
Parson: "The inspection is one thing, but I think it's more about: are you prepared for the Corona 19? I mean, it's a little different scenario than the normal inspections. And I think we're all doing a better job of that. The Department of Health, making sure that people understand who's at risk, who may brings the virus in. An example of that is there's an employee work at multiple nursing homes that maybe could bring it in to do that. So we're trying to make all the nursing homes aware of all the statistical information we can. The other thing is making sure that they have PPE gear and the masks and everything for the employees to deal with the situation. And then can they isolate people? Those are all things that we're working on that are crucial to making sure how we deal with this virus."
Q: Medicaid expansion is going to a statewide vote. The vote will happen in August. You have so far not been supportive of expanding that program. Missouri hospitals have long said that expanding Medicaid would be a relief to them. Does that move the needle for you at all in terms of your consideration of Medicaid expansion?
Parson: "It really doesn't. And here here's the problem with Medicaid expansion. We know it's going to cost something. I mean, I know people will come out there on both sides of the issue. And somebody's going to save us money. But I think if you look with a little common sense, anytime you expand a government program, it never has cost savings. It costs you more money. And right now, you know, we're like fifth in the United States of taking general revenue now, putting it into the Medicaid system in our state, fifth in the United States. So I think expanding at a time like this, I think people just need to realize, you know, what that costs. What that's going to mean to the everyday citizen out there if we expand it, and I think that's what we want to do. Whether you're for it or against it, the whole concept right now is where the economy is, the way things are and where our revenues are down the state. You know, the quicker we know whether we're going to have to deal with that or not. You know, we've got to make those decisions. So really right now, you know, people trying to make a political issue out of it right now feel like the August primary. It's just a matter of simple mathematics. You've got to know, hey, how are we gonna pay for this?"
[Editor's note: you can read more about the studies of how much expanding Medicaid would cost the state of Missouri here.]
Q: Less government control has long been a refrain of the Republican Party and here in Ozarks culture. But on the other hand, government is also there to protect life and liberty. How do you personally draw that line, particulary in response to the crowded pool parties at Lake of the Ozarks last weekend during a pandemic?
Parson: "Yeah, well, I guess, number one, it's unfortunate what happened on the national level of Missouri being in the forefront of that. But I think it's also important to remember, the majority of people in this state, the vast majority, are doing what they're being asked to do. When you do bad behavior on something, as far as what we're trying to do is social distancing, it's not a crime in the state of Missouri. At some point, people have to take the responsibility to do that. And the trouble you have is you're trying to kind of build a criminal case against a non-criminal offense. And, you know, when you do that, we don't know who's going to get infected and who's not going to get infected by some of this. We don't know that yet....So to be able to just jump in and say, 'Hey, I want to arrest people or I want to do some sort of punishment for behavior, for personal responsibility,' you've just got to be careful with that, with freedom. I mean, in this particular case, it sounds pretty good. But the next time all of a sudden you want to governor of the state of Missouri to say, you know, who gets in trouble, who don't get in trouble with without laws being in place to do that: So it's a tough issue. You know, like I said, it's unfortunate they did that. My biggest worry is who that's going to affect...and we're not going to know that for another seven to 10 days, probably a couple of weeks."