Jay Nixon's complicated Medicaid thinking
The Kansas City Star
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon zigged and zagged around another health care question today.
In Kansas City to sign a bill permitting the creation of “land banks’ to deal with vacant and blighted properties, Nixon dodged questions or whether he will push the legislature to increase the state’s Medicaid eligibility limits to comply with the Affordable Care Act, or even if he thinks the eligibility limits should be raised.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling basically made it optional for states to comply with the portion of the new law which calls for states to include families making up to 133 percent of the poverty level in their Medicaid programs. Missouri’s Medicaid eligibility for adults is currently 19 percent of the poverty level.
Republican legislative leaders have said they won’t even consider raising the limits, even though to do so would bring millions of federal dollars into the state to pay doctors and health care providers and would enhance medical and financial security for thousands of families.
And Nixon? It’s complicated, he said. “I could give a very simple answer to a very complicated question,” he said, but that “would fall within the realm of the way this stuff is being discussed now, which is not in the realm of what’s best in the long run.”
The governor said he intends to have discussions with “stakeholders” and “forge the best path forward.” The most he would say is that his mission “is to make sure that Missourians have access to affordable health insurance.”
Things were a lot more simple four years ago, when Nixon ran on an unambiguous pledge to raise Missouri’s shamefully low Medicaid eligibility limits.
To the governor’s credit, he tried to do that in his first year. Under his leadership, the state’s hospitals actually agree to pay more in taxes so the state could afford to bring more people into the Medicaid program, and keep them out of hospital emergency rooms. The legislature nixed that deal, the limits never got raised, and now it’s complicated.