For many, state budgets cuts are life-or-death issue

ST. LOUIS - Melanie Shouse has a hard road to travel. Not only is she fighting breast cancer, she's also fighting the health care industry. As a small business owner, she could only afford a catastrophic health insurance policy, where her co-pay and deductible nears $10,000.

'When I first noticed a small lump on my breast, denial seemed the only option,' she told the World as Missouri State Workers' Union (CWA-MSWU), Jobs with Justice, Pro-Vote and ACORN members rallied out-side of the South Broadway Social Services office here July 29.

CWA-MSWU Local 6355 called the rally to draw attention to the proposed $25 million r budget cut to the Missouri Department of Social Services. The State Workers' Union represents Missouri's Social Service workers.

Shouse, who was told that she had a 13 percent chance of survival, knew she couldn't pay her co-pay and deductible. 'For weeks after diagnosis,' Shouse said, 'I was in a state of near panic regarding how I would pay for treatment. I had no savings and no real assets, and no idea how I was going to cover these monumental co-pays and deductibles.' 'And with this prize-winning pre-existing condition, I had no opportunity to seek a better private health plan. I was shut out of the market,' she said.

Melanie knew she could expect little help from her insurer, so she went to the St. Louis County Medicaid office.

'My fabulous caseworker got right to work. Within days I received this Missouri Medicaid card that probably saved my life,' Shouse continued. 'With this card, I could walk into one of the top cancer centers in the world and receive top-notch care without having to sell a kidney to cover my deductibles.' 'I'm standing here today thanks to the Missouri Medicaid program.' According to Bradley Harmon, president of the State Workers' Union, Melanie's story is exactly why cuts to social services is the wrong way to balance Missouri's budget - as fewer social workers mean fewer applications processed, and fewer applications processed means fewer Missourians will get the care they need.

'We know we're in a budget crisis,' Harmon said. 'There's no fat in our budget to cut, there's not even muscle. We're cutting into the bone and in the process we're destroying our social safety net.' 'We have to put the needs of ordinary Missourians, like Melanie Shouse, first,' Harmon continued.

Shouse, a strong supporter of the health care public option, added, 'Our efficient and effective public health plan [Medicaid] has allowed me to receive some of the best, cutting-edge care in the world. I didn't have to wait. And I don't have to worry about how I'm going to pay for it.' As Republicans and conservative Democrats deny health care reform in Washington, hundreds of thousands of Americans face the same stress, uncertainty and hardship as Melanie Shouse.

'But, as our nation has learned so painfully over the past eight years,' Shouse continued, 'denial leads to catastrophe.'