The recent news that elected leaders in Kansas have forged a bipartisan compromise to expand Medicaid in the Sunflower State after years at a political impasse should be a lesson for those of us here in Missouri.
As a family care doctor, I’ve seen firsthand how hardworking Missourians can slip through the cracks of our health care system. In our state, more than half a million adults are uninsured, mostly because they have jobs that simply don’t offer coverage. Earning too little to afford to buy their own insurance, they’re caught in the limbo of this coverage gap.
Hundreds of thousands of Missourians face choices between lifesaving care for their loved ones and themselves or their economic survival.
I’ve seen this happen firsthand. In one case, I treated a 55-year-old truck driver who was beset by escalating diabetes. His condition worsened, and he subsequently lost his commercial driver’s license — a requirement for his job.
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It was the start of a 10-year physical and financial spiral. Without that license, my patient lost his employer-provided insurance, so he was unable to afford his daily medicine. Though he had been an active, productive member of society, his condition steadily declined. It eventually led to dialysis, an amputation and frequent hospitalizations. He died at 65.
As it now stands, Medicaid is available only to children, pregnant women, those with disabilities and some seniors in Missouri. Expanding Medicaid to adults earning less than $18,000 a year — or about $30,000 for a family of three — would require the state to provide a 10% match. The federal program covers the remaining 90%.
While some politicians compare this to a tax increase, a look beyond the rhetoric suggests the exact opposite. Researchers at the Center for Health Economics and Policy at Washington University in St. Louis found that in a best-case scenario, Medicaid expansion could save Missouri as much as $39 million in its first year.
By fiscal year 2026, the annual savings from Medicaid expansion in Missouri would top $1 billion, the researchers found, thanks to a shift that would essentially bring more of our federal tax dollars home from Washington.
All of us pay taxes, and we’d like to see those tax dollars put to good use, as they are in other states. Right now, Missouri is losing out. Our tax dollars are sitting in Washington, D.C. As a state, we can’t afford that kind of loss of revenue.
Medicaid expansion is also vital to protect health care for our state’s rural residents. Since 2014, 10 rural hospitals in Missouri have closed — most recently, Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville just this month. Its Overland Park owner also operates a hospital by the same name in Johnson County.
For years, our political leaders here have resisted the opportunity to expand Medicaid, even as 36 other states (not counting Kansas) have moved to expand this safety net. That includes neighboring Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Nebraska. In Oklahoma, a 2020 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative is also on track.
A proposed statewide ballot initiative in November would give Missouri voters the opportunity to do what our elected officials in Jefferson City will not.
Healthcare for Missouri — the group of doctors, nurses, patients, hospitals, business owners and everyday Missourians behind the campaign — says it has already collected more than half of the 172,000 voter signatures required to put the measure on the 2020 general election ballot. I’m proud to be among those supporters, and I hope you’ll join me.
Source: Kansas City