A study by the University of Missouri makes it abundantly clear that opting into Medicaid expansion would be positive for the Show Me State’s economy, including the creation of more than 24,000 jobs in 2014 alone.
Let’s quickly review: Because of the Supreme Court decision last summer, states can choose to not participate in the Medicaid expansion found in the Affordable Care Act, which makes Americans at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid and provides the billions in federal dollars needed to insure them. Many leaders of both parties have opted in; some, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, still stubbornly refuse.
In Missouri, the expansion would open up eligibility to 159,260 additional Missourians in 2014 alone. Because currently there are so many in Missouri without health insurance – roughly 15 percent of the population, or as many as 900,000 people – we are currently seeing reduced productivity, increased cost to public programs, increased private insurance premiums, and increased stress on emergency programs (uninsured folks using the ER as their health care).
But factor in Medicaid expansion, allowing at least a chunk of that 900,000 to afford insurance for the first time, and those problems start to inch down. In addition, with the federal money rolling in to pay for the expansion, health care companies will immediately need personnel. The University of Missouri study estimates that in 2014, we’d see 5,094 new jobs in nursing and care, 3,208 news jobs in retail, 2,905 new jobs at private hospitals, 2,108 new jobs in home care, and a host of other areas. They estimate a total of 24,008 Missouri jobs created in 2014.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced late last year that Missouri would be participating, calling it “the best thing to do for our state.” With the expected employment windfall, and newfound medical security for thousands of Missourians, it’s a no-brainer, right?
Some extremist members of the Republican-controlled legislature, unfortunately, have other ideas.
One House committee has already rejected the expansion bill supported by Gov. Nixon, while Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) has offered an alternative. He calls it “market-based” Medicaid expansion: instead of expanding eligibility to 138 percent of the poverty level (which he described as part of the Obama’s “left wing ideology”), he’d stop at 100 percent. Oh, and he’d pare down eligibility for children, leaving out 44,000 Missouri children.
Let’s put aside the morally bankrupt idea of kicking thousands of children of low-income parents off their health insurance. Even if Rep. Barnes’ bill went into law, under the guidelines set forth in the Affordable Care Act, Missouri probably still wouldn’t be eligible for the federal funds they need to do any of this in the first place, unless the Obama Administration made an exception.
So in other words, Rep. Barnes’ “alternative” proposal is not an alternative at all – it’s a roundabout way of scuttling Medicaid expansion completely.
Let’s not be fooled by Barnes’ political theater. Medicaid expansion does not have to be a partisan issue, as Republican Govs. Christie, Martinez, McDonnell, Kasich, and Scott have shown. This is about allowing the most vulnerable among us to have the medical security we all deserve – not to mention putting thousands of Missourians back to work.