Hospitals, health care advocates launch campaign to authorize Medicaid expansion through statewide vote

Medicaid Expansion

Missouri’s hospitals and a coalition of individuals and organizations supporting Medicaid expansion announced the launch of a campaign to let Missouri voters decide the future of expanded coverage to low-income individuals caught in the “coverage gap.”

“Missouri is among only a handful of states to not expand Medicaid. As a result, approximately 200,000 citizens of the state are without insurance,” says Steven D. Edwards, president, and CEO of CoxHealth. “If Missouri had expanded Medicaid, the state would’ve received $4 billion in federal funding. Instead, money paid by Missouri taxpayers is reallocated to other states like Massachusetts and California, who receive a disproportionate amount of federal funding. We are glad that this issue will now go to voters, who can make their voices heard by voting to expand Medicaid and benefit from taxes they’re already paying.”

Under Medicaid expansion, Missourians making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for health coverage under the program. Currently, Medicaid is unavailable to able-bodied adults and limited to 19 percent of the FPL for custodial parents. Under the expansion, those meeting the 138 percent FPL threshold — approximately $18,000 annually for an individual or $30,000 annually for a family of three — could enroll.

“Missouri’s current eligibility levels exclude nearly all of the working poor,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President, and CEO. “Missouri has poor health behaviors — high rates of smoking and low rates of physical activity, for example — which can result in poor health outcomes. Keeping the workforce healthy benefits all Missourians.”

Unlike states that have adopted Medicaid expansion, hospitals in Missouri continue to experience high costs of uncompensated care. Hospitals are required by federal law to accept all patients. When patients cannot afford their care, hospitals write off the cost as either charity care for those who qualify, or as bad debt. Some of these costs are passed along to Missourians who have health coverage, raising the cost of care for all.

“When individuals have insurance, they have better access to primary care to manage their health,” said Paula Baker, President and CEO of Freeman Health System in Joplin, Mo. “Medicaid expansion can help reduce high-cost emergency health interventions that could be managed with regular primary care, including access to rescue medications or chronic disease management. Avoiding unnecessary emergency department care will reduce costs for patients and the health care system, and increase the efficient use of health resources.”

The Missouri Hospital Association is a member of the Healthcare for Missouri coalition. The coalition will be collecting signatures to place the Medicaid expansion question on the ballot in November 2020.