Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for all Missourians
The Kansas City Star
Rarely are state legislatures handed an opportunity to materially impact the lives of their most marginalized citizens in a good way. Missouri is presented with such an unparalleled opportunity right now. On June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act but it also held that expanding Medicaid in 2014 is not mandatory. As of this ruling, it is a choice that states can opt into or out of. Missouri legislature must opt in.
NETWORK members in Missouri have circled the state this summer. We, the Nuns on the Bus, visited to our Congressional representatives, met with the governor’s staff and we continue to meet with elected state representatives. Our mission calls us to amplify the voices of those who suffer from social injustice. The provision of healthcare for all of our citizenry is a moral imperative that faithful people cannot justifiably avoid.
Charity care only begets the need for more charity. We want a just health care system that provides health care for all citizens.
We, the Missouri NETWORK members stand proudly with our state Catholic Conference, Hospital Association, the Chambers of Commerce and forty plus organizations across the state in calling our General Assembly to pass legislation to expand Medicaid.
At 19% of the federal poverty level (FPL), Missouri has the embarrassing distinction of having one of the lowest levels of eligibility for access to Medicaid. To be currently eligible for Medicaid, one must earn less than $3,504 per year, or $292 per month. That is why we have over 800,000 uninsured citizens in Missouri. It is a moral outrage to think that 800,000 people risk serious complications and even death from wholly preventable and treatable illnesses. Many work but their employers do not provide insurance and their wages are too low to pay private premiums. That is wrong.
Lack of insurance is the real fatal disease in Missouri. And for many who suffer from it, we have a cure today! Our General Assembly can make it possible for a quarter of a million citizens to have access to coverage. The beneficiaries are our neighbors who do not have coverage because they are unemployed; or those who have 2 or 3 jobs that offer no coverage; or those who have a pre-existing condition that makes insurance premiums cost prohibitive. We all know someone who is suffering like this.
Ongoing medical care and routine preventative services significantly improve medical outcomes, produce a healthier workforce and save taxpayer dollars. Conversely, delay of treatment until emergency care is required results in extremely expensive and uncompensated care which tax payers will ultimately assume. This delay also causes poor medical outcomes, long periods off work and extended separations from one’s family routine. This, in turn, results in a greater enrollment in government programs such as food stamps, assistance to needy families and disability insurance (SSI).
Furthermore, acceptance of the federal funding to cover our most vulnerable working family members makes sound economic sense too. It will not take any money out of the state General Fund (MO Budget Office, 2013). On the contrary, it will bring in $15.7 billion in federal matching funds from 2014 through 2021. This money will be infused into our ailing economy and provide the stimulus we so badly need. In addition, more insured people will produce demand for additional jobs in healthcare and those occupations that support delivery of prevention and treatment.
We call upon our General Assembly to put aside partisan politics and accept the federal funding that will enable our state to provide Medicaid coverage for all citizens who earn less than 138% of FPL. It’s the right thing to do and we all know it.
Alice Kitchen is a Missouri NETWORK member and retired social worker. Sr. Simone Campbell is executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic Social Justice Lobby