Missouri Republicans lose by opposing Medicaid expansion
The Kansas City Star
Opposing a Medicaid expansion could prove to be a political liability for Missouri Republicans, according to a poll commissioned by the Missouri Hospital Association.
The survey of registered voters, by the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint Inc. of Alexandria, Va., found that Missourians overall support expanding Medicaid limits, as called for in the federal Affordable Care Act. After hearing a “balanced set” of arguments for and against the proposal, 56 percent favored expansion and 35 percent opposed it.
Pollsters found that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who favors the expansion, is regarded much more favorably by voters than Republicans in the legislature, who present the obstacle.
Opposing an expansion, the pollsters warned, could “drive down the GOP brand further with swing voters.” Independent women voters were strongly supportive of expanding Medicaid limits.
Pollsters found that a majority of Republican voters who heard the arguments pro and con still opposed expanding Medicaid, but only 14 percent said they were be less likely to vote for a legislator who helped get an expansion passed.
“Given the other accomplishments that the GOP legislature should have regarding fiscal discipline and social issues, this isn’t an issue that should greatly impact a GOP legislator’s standing with the base,” the pollsters concluded.
The polling consultants concluded that the Missouri GOP would be better off working for reforms in the Medicaid system, such as ferreting out fraud and abuse, than opposing an expansion.
Some Republican lawmakers, including House members Jay Barnes of Jefferson City and Chris Molendorp of Belton, are working on that kind of strategy. Their ideas include copays for Medicaid recipients, incentives for wise use of medical services, and competition among managed care companies.
There is reason to hope the Missouri General Assembly will pass a bill this year that would make health insurance available to many more low-income people. As Nixon, who is pushing the issue tirelessly, says, it is the “smart thing to do and the right thing to do.”
And it appears, for Republicans, that finding a way to expand Medicaid is also the politically savvy thing to do.