WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Claire McCaskill says she has been working hard for Missourians to protect their interests, no matter where they live. KMZU’s Brian Lock had the opportunity to talk with Missouri’s Senior Senator about that work. Click below to hear the full, edited interview which aired live on KMZU.
Senator McCaskill said she is focused on problems people living in rural communities across Missouri are facing – one of those problems, she alleged, is caused by cuts to public school funding by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss.
“I think 70% of public schools in Missouri are in rural communities and I don’t think Besty DeVoss understands that they are the lifeblood of so many communities across my state,” the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs told KMZU News.
The Senator seems to genuinely believe this – in her view, these cuts are dangerous not just for Missourians, but for all Americans.
“This idea that we can cut money from public schools and give it to private schools, well there’s not those choices in rural Missouri.” McCaskill insisted. “Their original budget request cuts nine billion dollars. I am very worried about the impact that could have on programs these rural schools depend on,” she went on to say.
McCaskill’s qualms with the Trump Administration’s proposed budget aren’t the only thing she is focused on. She also expressed her concern over the state of rural healthcare, explaining that access and transportation issues exacerbate costs, causing facilities to suffer.
“I am also focusing on the stress that rural healthcare facilities are under,” McCaskill told KMZU’s Brian Lock. “We are seeing rural hospitals struggling to stay open. Most people need to understand that it’s more expensive to do a lot of things because of transportation costs and because people have to travel”
Senator McCaskill reiterated her belief that the challenges rural hospitals are facing are not unrelated to the problems she sees in the currently proposed budget for the Department of Education.
“We’ve got to make sure that we keep public schools funded and we have to make sure we keep our rural hospitals open so people aren’t forced to go long distances for healthcare,” McCaskill expressed. “More importantly, [so they] don’t have problems in terms of life-saving capabilities because of the commute that they have to go to get to healthcare facilities”
The Senator recently penned a letter to the Comptroller General of the United States, Mr. Eugene Dorado, expressing her concern over the epidemic of rural hospital closures across rural America. She said she has not received a response from his office, but that she is requesting an audit of the system to see how to make costs more manageable for rural medical centers.
“I have asked him to do what is essentially an audit,” McCaskill revealed. “As you may remember, I was the auditor of Missouri and this particular operation in Washington is called the General Auditor’s office and they don’t have a party. They’re just good auditors.”
McCaskill served as Auditor of the State of Missouri from 1999-2007 before being elected to the Senate in 2006.
“I want them to pinpoint, so we know, what is the real reason that these rural hospitals are struggling? Is it high pharmaceutical costs? Is it that they are not getting enough reimbursement on Medicaid and Medicare? I need to understand what really is causing this.”
“They are going to do what’s known as a program audit, and they will take a very close look at the stresses rural hospitals are feeling,” McCaskill stated. “Then hopefully with that information, I will be better equipped to go after it and do everything I can to keep the doors open at these rural hospitals.
McCaskill said that she believes Missouri made a poor decision by not expanding Medicaid, effectively leaving money on the table, which she said could make a difference for rural hospitals.
“I’ve got to tell you, one of the big problems in Missouri is that Medicaid was not expanded. Missouri has left billions of dollars on the table. I think that if they would be willing to take that money – and they can ask for waivers, they don’t have to do the Medicaid program in any certain way – Missouri can decide how to do it. They’re not required to do it according to Washington-style,” McCaskill explained.”
“They can get a waiver and develop a program. That’s exactly what Vice President Mike Pence did in Indiana. He took the Medicaid money and developed a state program that he worked for his state. It’s just sad to me that we’ve got these rural hospitals struggling while there’s billions of dollars sitting there that Missouri is entitled to, but the Legislature and the Governor in Jefferson City have decided not to take it.”
Missouri’s Senior Senator praised State Auditor Nicole Galloway, stating that the Auditor’s Office is often overlooked, but that it is vital to keeping the government running efficiently. She said she was “impressed with this auditor because she is a Democrat, and she’s gone after other Democrats.” McCaskill praised Galloway for “going after the University of Missouri,” stating that she knows how difficult it can be to investigate the University, given its popularity among Missourians.
“She went after Governor Nixon and other Democratic office holders. Now, I think she is just keeping her head down and looking after taxpayer money” “. . . She did what was right. She called it like she saw it, in terms of them wasting money, and getting raises they shouldn’t be getting, and people should appreciate her work in that regard.”
Senator McCaskill also discussed her work to bring broadband to rural Missouri, which is an effort she confessed will require many people to work together across party lines.
“We also are working really hard on rural broadband, which is really important for schools in rural Missouri. Governor Greitens announced a program this week [where] Missouri is going to put $6 million in a fund and I am going to work really hard to get the full $32 million that the federal government will provide,” McCaskill told KMZU News.
“That will be used specifically to expand broadband access outside of the metropolitan areas. I know how important that is for people who live in Carrollton and across northern Missouri,” McCaskill assured.
Senator McCaskill will be back in Missouri for the next two weeks while Congress is in Spring recess, with plans to host eight town hall events to hear concerns directly from Missourians. Follow KMZU News for updates pertaining to Senator McCaskill’s planned town hall events.