• Missouri should expand Medicaid, improve economy

  • The Missouri General Assembly still has plenty of time in its current session to pass a measure that would improve and stabilize the state’s economy.

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  • The Missouri General Assembly still has plenty of time in its current session to pass a measure that would improve and stabilize the state’s economy.
    Missouri should take advantage of the federal government’s generous offer to expand Medicaid to about 260,000 more people. Mostly, these are people who are working one, two and even three jobs – none of them providing health insurance – and the people most likely to end up at the local ER when an emergency arises, unable to pay for care that hospitals end up writing off. That ends up being reflected in rates paid by those who so have health coverage.
    Gov. Jay Nixon proposed this expansion five months ago, and it has drawn a broad range of supporters. Hospitals, concerned about the high costs of care they are mandated to provide but for which they are often uncompensated, of course are on board. So are dozens of chambers of commerce, from virtually all of the state’s larger cities, including Independence, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit. Their point is that health care is an economic driver, and they see Medicaid expansion as a solid means of retaining local jobs. A University of Missouri study says more than 4,000 jobs would be added just on the Missouri side of the metro area.
    Medicaid is health insurance for the poor. The federal government pays most of the cost, and the states run it within federal standards. Missouri is among the stingier states, providing care to children, the disabled and pregnant women, and that’s about it. It covers about 900,000 people.
    The proposal is to make Medicaid – MO HealthNet – available to those making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. That would add 260,000 to 300,000 people, those generally classified as the working poor. The federal government is doing this under ObamaCare, with the aim of expanding health insurance to virtually every American.
    Washington will pay the full cost of expansion for three years, starting Jan. 1, 2014. Then the federal share tapers down to 90 percent by 2020 and stays there permanently. It’s still our tax money either way, whether sent to Jefferson City or sent to Washington and then back to Jefferson City, but if Missouri passes on this deal we’ll still be paying the federal taxes, and other states will get our money. If Missouri says yes, people get coverage, and billions of added dollars flow to the state each year.
    Local case in point: Jackson County subsidizes the two Truman Medical Center campuses with millions of dollars every year. Those two hospitals – including TMC Lakewood, which serves thousands in Eastern Jackson County – by themselves provide more than one-tenth of all uncompensated care in the entire state. If everyone walking in the door at TMC had health insurance, that makes finances at the hospital – and for county taxpayers – significantly better.
    Page 2 of 2 - Despite broad support for the proposal, legislative leaders remain dug in and opposed. Their arguments essentially come down to ideology: They just don’t want to do anything to cooperate with ObamaCare, regardless of the fact that the law was duly passed by Congress and upheld last year by the Supreme Court. Even those with qualms about the Affordable Care Act – Gov. Nixon was among them – have recognized that it’s the law of the land. Missouri needs to get on board.

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