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Nixon: Medicaid Expansion 'The Right Thing To Do'

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated 11:37 a.m. with reaction from Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill and at 12:01 p.m. with statements from community organizations and Mo. House Speaker Tim Jones. Updated 5:59 p.m. with additional reporting from St. Louis.

Gov. Jay Nixon says expanding Medicaid eligibility in Missouri is both "the smart thing" and "the right thing to do."

Nixon announced his support for the expansion Thursday, saying it could provide health care coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians.

“It’s the smart thing to do because if we take a pass on billions of healthcare dollars, dollars that come out of Missourians paychecks, the money will go to another state,” Nixon said. “They’ll get the benefit. We’ll get the bill.”

Nixon and hospital officials warn without the expansion the state would not only lose additional federal funding, but current funds for Medicaid would drop dramatically.

BJC president and chief executive Steve Lipstein says that would hurt hospitals that serve uninsured patients and the state’s economy.

“We are the largest employer in the state of Missouri, and our ability to continue to sustain that employment in support of providing outstanding patient care is contingent upon the legislature approving the governor’s plan for expansion of Medicaid,” Lipstein said.

BJC employs 25,000 people at hospitals throughout Missouri.

Under a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, each state can decide whether to enact the Medicaid expansion called for under President Barack Obama's health care law. The federal government pays the full cost starting in 2014, but states must begin paying a 5 percent share in 2017 that gradually increases to 10 percent by 2020.

The Democratic governor says he will "work tirelessly" to persuade the Republican-led Legislature to approve the Medicaid expansion. Republican leaders have expressed concerns about its future cost to the state. 

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill released the following statement regarding Nixon's announcement:

“I applaud the announcement Governor Nixon made today—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 fiscal challenges. An expansion will ensure Missourians benefit from the taxes they pay instead of seeing that money and its benefits flow to other states. This is as commonsense as it gets. The next step is for the folks in Jefferson City to follow our lead. The Legislature should act now to support the Medicaid expansion, and create a Missouri-based health insurance exchange instead of handing its creation over to the federal government. I honestly never thought I’d see the day when the Missouri Legislature would willingly toss responsibility back to Washington and walk the other way.” 

Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, Tim Jones (R, Eureka) also shared his thoughts:

“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.  My first question to the Governor is this – where is the money to pay for this once the federal aid goes away?  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.”

Several community organizations also sent out a joint press release, comments are here by organization:

  • Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation: “The Medicaid expansion is about bringing relief to hardworking Missourians who are suffering without health insurance today. Under the current system, many low-wage workers fall through the cracks of a broken system that excludes them from Medicaid but doesn’t pay them enough to buy private insurance.  It is time for us to put an end to this suffering.”

  • Lara Granich, Executive Director of Missouri Jobs with Justice: “Over the past two weeks, thousands of Missourians from across the state have contacted Governor Nixon, urging him to support the Medicaid expansion. We applaud the Governor for listening to his constituents, and for responding to these calls and e-mails by announcing his support today.” 

  • Sarah Durbin, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Paraquad: “Expanding Medicaid to cover more working Missourians means that people with disabilities can access the health care they need, even while working part-time. This represents a tremendous shift from our current system, where often the only way to qualify for Medicaid and receive vital services and support has been to stop working entirely. We are eager to see this expansion implemented in Missouri without delay.”

  • Bunnie Gronborg, a Missouri Health Care for All Board member: “Several members of my family work tremendously hard but are uninsured. Any health concerns that arise mean unpaid time off work, financial debt, or delaying seeking treatment. Expanding Medicaid may give them better access to health care, which will allow them to stay healthy and better provide for their families. It will also bring good jobs to Missouri that our communities need.”

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Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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