By LESLIE COLLINS
December 5, 2012
If the Missouri legislature follows Gov. Jay Nixon’s lead, Missouri could expand its Medicaid coverage to include an additional estimated 300,000 Missourians.
Nixon said expanding coverage is the “right thing to do” and the “smart thing to do.”
Too many families are already stretched to the limit financially and are forced to choose between putting food on the table or purchasing medicine, he said.
“The elections are over. It’s time to chart the best path for the state,” he said during a Nov. 29 press conference at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City.
Under the Affordable Health Act, states are allowed to expand Medicaid by raising the eligibility level to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty level. For a family of four living at 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, that equates to $31,809 per year.
For years 2014 to 2016, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the expansion costs. Beginning in 2017, the state would be required to cover five percent of the cost and gradually increase its share to 10 percent by 2018.
According to a recent report released by the Missouri Hospital Association and Missouri Foundation for Health, expanding Medicaid will create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014.
“In one year, this is more than the employment of Missouri’s 10 Fortune 500 companies in the state,” the report stated.
In addition, the report stated, expanding Medicaid could add an additional $9.6 billion in “value-added output to the economy” between 2014 and 2020.
As for the cost of expanding Medicaid in Missouri, the report estimates from 2014 to 2020, the federal government will spend $8.2 billion and the state of Missouri will spend $332.9 million.
By expanding coverage, more Missourians will be able to access preventative care, like immunizations, cancer screenings and prenatal checkups, Nixon said.
Another reason to expand Medicaid is that under the Affordable Care Act, payments to hospitals serving the uninsured will decrease, he said.
“If those payments are not offset by an increase in federal funds to cover the cost of that care, hospitals will have to bear those costs,” Nixon said.
And that could mean hospital closures or higher insurance premiums, he said.
Senator Claire McCaskill said she applauded the governor’s efforts.
“Expanded coverage will boost the number of Missourians with access to life-saving health services, expand job opportunities and protect rural hospitals which are at risk of closing from financial challenges,” McCaskill said. “This is as commonsense as it gets. The next step is for the folks at Jefferson City to follow our lead.”
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones said he opposes expanding Medicaid, stating, “Now is not the time to put our state on the end of yet another big government program that will only increase the burden on future taxpayers… The federal government is providing the funding now, but it is likely to disappear in just a few years as our nation comes to grips with our crippling national debt. That would leave Missouri taxpayers holding the bag for a massive expansion of a very expensive entitlement program, and that is unacceptable.”
If Missouri focuses instead on job creation, that will reduce the number of Missourians who need to depend on Medicaid, Jones said.
Nixon said he’s spent a “tremendous amount of time” reviewing the plan and said it’s the right choice for Missouri.
“This will improve the health and the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Missourians,” Nixon said, “and transform the expensive, scattershot way we now provide care for people with no health insurance.”