Talking Politics: Advocacy Work, Job Experiences Shape Martha Stevens' Platform | KBIA

Talking Politics: Advocacy Work, Job Experiences Shape Martha Stevens' Platform

Oct 18, 2016

Credit Alison Barnes Martin

Martha Stevens left her social work and advocacy positions to run for the District 46 House of Representatives seat. Her job experiences gave her ideas for public policies on health care coverage. For Stevens, health care expansion is one of the most critical issues facing Missourians.

“It's very hard to qualify for Medicaid, in our state,” Stevens said,  “When I say Medicaid, I am talking about health insurance. Missouri has the opportunity to expand eligibility to the working poor so that they can access health care through Medicaid expansion.”

Stevens worked with the advocacy group Missouri Rural Crisis Center in Columbia before starting her campaign. As a social worker, Stevens saw the difficulties seniors and adults with disabilities faced on a day to day basis. She said there’s a vacuum of health care coverage for some of Missouri’s vulnerable populations.

“They make too much to qualify for Medicaid,” Stevens said, “Which is a very low standard in our state, about 19 percent of the federal poverty level. So for example, a working mother, of two, if she makes more than approximately three hundred dollars a month, that's too much to qualify for Medicaid.”

Stevens said Missouri would need to opt into receiving federal tax dollars through Medicaid to achieve health care expansion. She believes Medicaid expansion also boosts employment.

“It's a huge job creator,” Stevens said, “So especially here in Mid Missouri, we have such a robust health care industry, if we expanded Medicaid, we would have to even further expand the industry to absorb the new people that get new health care. To me, it's a moral issue, and also certainly an economic issue.”

Access to all kinds of health services are important to Stevens. She said she’s upset about state’s power in regulating abortion services.

“I am disappointed that legislators have made it a priority to attack access when it comes to constitutionally protected health care, which included abortion services. These are private medical decisions that are made between a woman and her doctor with her family.”

Stevens used to work as an organizer for Planned Parenthood.  She says certain groups  are disproportionately affected when it comes to women’s healthcare.

“Taking time off of work, child care, traveling,” Stevens said, “And we have 72 hour waiting period if a woman does choose to have an abortion. I think that the strains are disproportionately put on low income women and women in rural areas.”

Following progressive values, Stevens supports two types of  human rights at the  forefront of her platform. The first is LGBT individuals rights of constitutional protection from discrimination in employment and housing.

“So the reality is that in the state of Missouri,” Stevens said, “This community folks can be fired from their jobs, deferred from their homes, and deny access to public accommodations, so I think we need to address whether they need to be added, into the Missouri Human Rights Statutes. For the past several years, sponsors have been state representative Stephen Webber here in Columbia in the House. And I would like to continue his efforts.”

Secondly, Stevens supports rights for those without photo IDs. On November 8, Missouri voters will decide whether or not to approve the amendment that would require photo ID for voters.

“So this is to me, a public policy at its worst,” Stevens said, “It's a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and will disenfranchise. The secretary state office estimates about 200,000 Missourians, and this is going to be low-income folks, people living with a disability, people of color and women, and seniors.”

Other areas of Stevens platform include increasing investment for K-12 and higher education, opposition to right-to-work, and raising the  minimum wage to $12.