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Eigel: Vaccination should be up to the individual

Sen. Bill Eigel is among the Republican lawmakers speaking out against proposed federal vaccine requirements, arguing the government should not enact sweeping health requirements. 

Eigel has opposed the proposals since they were announced, taking part in a rally against the mandates during veto session and calling on Gov. Mike Parson to convene a special session to block mandates in Missouri. The St. Charles County Republican said mandates were not the place of the government or businesses and health care choices should be up to the individual. 

“I’ve always been supportive of the freedom to choose what you’re injecting into your own body,” Eigel said. “I oppose vaccine mandates for the same reason I support right-to-work legislation in the state of Missouri, and that is there are times when it’s inappropriate for businesses to place restrictions on employees and leverage them or coerce them by holding employment over their heads.”

While official rules have not yet been drafted, the proposed mandates would order employers with at least 100 workers to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit weekly negative test results. All federal employees and contractors doing business with the federal government will need to be vaccinated without a weekly testing option. 

Eigel joined Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” to discuss the pandemic as well as Medicaid expansion and the gas tax increase, two changes that took effect last week. Eigel, a vocal opponent of the fuel increase in the upper chamber, said the move would erode trust between lawmakers and their constituents. 

“Any time the gas prices go up even further, that’s not a good thing for anybody in the state, and frankly, more than that, Republicans go through every campaign season telling the voters of this state and actually around the country that we’re going to lower your tax code,” Eigel said. “I just want to do what I told my constituents I was going to  do, which is cut their taxes instead of making it more difficult for everybody in this state by making it more expensive to buy gas.”

Medicaid expansion

Rep. Donna Baringer, former Sen. Jim Lembke, Thurman Law partner Derrick Good, and Atlas Strategy principal Gregg Keller joined this week’s panel to discuss the state beginning to enroll new Medicaid applications for the expanded population. The issue went to court after the Missouri Legislature failed to pass a funding mechanism for the voter-approved measure opening coverage to around 275,000 individuals in the state.

“We have a lot of frustrated workers in the state of Missouri and now we’re going to take one burden off their shoulders, which is having health care,” Baringer, a Democrat, said. “They can have preventative care and preventive, in the long run, always outweighs reactive health care.”

“I think folks were lied to as far as ‘what is Medicaid expansion, are we going to pay for it?’” Lembke said. “This is an expansion of a fundamentally broken system that we spend 40 percent of our budget on, $11 billion. … We won’t do one reform to a fundamentally broken system.”

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the podcast version here.