The working poor in Missouri are desperately in need of affordable healthcare.
That was the message at a rally Monday evening organized by members of Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU).
From the steps of St. John’s United Church of Christ in St. Louis City, speaker after speaker called on lawmakers to take advantage of federal money to expand Medicaid coverage.
“It’s the right thing to do," said Barbara Paulus, an organizer with the religious coalition. "It’s good for the Missouri economy. But, most importantly, people have a right to healthcare.”
She said they plan to visit legislators in Jefferson City every month to make their case.
“We have too many people in this state and in this country who do not have access to healthcare because they are too poor, they don’t qualify for Medicaid,” Paulus said. “So, in Missouri, if we were to expand it, it would increase the number of people who have access to healthcare.”
The Affordable Care Act is designed to use federal money to cover the full cost of expanding Medicaid to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty level for the first three years. After that the federal contribution would be phased down to 90 percent, with states picking up the rest of the tab. Under last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, each state can decide to either opt in or out of taking the federal money.
Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon has been vocal in his support, saying expansion would bring $5.7 billion to the state and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years.
Nixon has also pointed to study by the University of Missouri Columbia and the Missouri Hospital Association that concluded Medicaid expansion would create more than 24,000 jobs in the state.
Republican House Speaker Tim Jones has questioned the findings of that study and raised concerns that the federal government could ultimately back away from its financial commitment to Medicaid expansion.
Republican members of the GOP controlled House and Senate have been equally steadfast in their opposition to Medicaid expansion.
Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted down legislation that would have authorized Medicaid expansion and two amendments that would have put expansion in the state budget failed to clear the House Budget Committee.
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