The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Generally speaking, there is no problem so bad that it can’t be made worse by the intervention of the Missouri Legislature. Sadly, on Wednesday a state Senate committee decided to dabble in the Ebola controversy.
Unreasonable fears about Ebola got a little boost. This is a matter for the federal government. There have been zero Ebola cases in Missouri. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upped its game since two nurses in Dallas contracted the virus after dealing with Thomas Eric Duncan, who was exposed to the disease in Liberia and became ill while visiting family in Dallas. Mr. Duncan died, but the two nurses are recovering.
One possible case at the University of Kansas Hospital across State Line Road from midtown Kansas City turned out to be a false alarm. The hospital nonetheless earned praise for its infectious disease protocols.
Those are the facts. Ebola is very hard to contract. It is not very hard, however, to scare a scientifically illiterate population. Some members of Congress shamelessly continue to try to gin up anxiety that will be placed by politically illiterate people on President Barack Obama.
So if it works in Washington, D.C., why not Jefferson City? Which is where state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, came in.
On Wednesday, Mr. Schaefer got six of his fellow senators to show up for an ad-hoc hearing on what the state is doing to prepare for any possible cases of Ebola. Mr. Schaefer is chairman of the Senate appropriations committee; his excuse for the hearing was to ask if state agencies need any additional funding. If so, some time next year his committee could work with the House on extra Ebola-fighting money, which would be available next July 1.
But Mr. Schaefer, who has announced his intention to run for attorney general in 2016, needs headlines now. He said that information provided by Gail Vasterling, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, and Andrea Spillas, deputy director of of the Department of Public Safety, was not satisfactory.
“Clearly what the state is doing is simply implementing what is being recommended by the CDC, and I think the next step is, is that sufficient or not?” Schaefer said. “There are certainly a lot of constituents who don’t think that is sufficient, including a lot of medical doctors.”
One such doctor is state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a family physician with an active imagination. KMIZ, a Columbia TV station, quoted him thusly:
“People are coming across our southern border all the time and really our federal government isn’t doing a whole lot to stop that. If I was a terrorist from the Islamic State, I’d go in and expose myself to Ebola and come across the border and infect as many people as I could. It would totally, totally disrupt our health system.”
If Sens. Schaefer and Schaaf really wanted to do something useful to protect the health of Missourians, they would push to expand the state’s Medicaid system, as called for under the Affordable Care Act. As many as 700 Missourians a year will die because of the Legislature’s bone-headed refusal to do so.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Legislature 700, Ebola 0.