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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Senators Get an Earful on Health Reform

From front to back: Senators Scott Rupp, Jane Cunningham, Joseph Keaveny, and Jim Lembke.
Jacob Fenston
From front to back: Senators Scott Rupp, Jane Cunningham, Joseph Keaveny, and Jim Lembke.

Missouri state senators listened to over 3 hours of impassioned testimony on health care reform yesterday. The hearing was supposed to be on the rather mundane question of whether Missouri should set up an online health care exchange starting in 2014, or let the federal government do so. But the hearing quickly became a forum for debating the merits of health reform itself. After the jump, two interviews with senators on the committee: a Democrat representing one of the state's most liberal districts, and a Republican who has been at the forefront of Missouri's pushback against "Obamacare."

Senator Joe Keaveny, of St. Louis, is one of only two Democrats on the committee charged with collecting testimony on the health exchange issue. In a very Red state senate, Keaveny is often the voice of health care reform. He says the Republic majority has over-politicised the health exchange question in Missouri.

Senator Jane Cunningham, a Republican representing St. Louis County, sponsored last year's Health Care Freedom Act, in which Missouri voters rejected health reform by 70 percent. Cunningham later sponsored a bill urging the state's attorney general to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act. She says she's just following the wishes of Missouri voters.

The health reform law requires states to set up health insurance exchanges, or allow the federal government to do so. The online marketplaces -- like Travelocity for health care -- are intended to stimulate competition and bring down costs.