Pediatricians say failure to fund Medicaid expansion could have long-lasting impacts

Medicaid Expansion

Voters in Missouri approved a ballot initiative expanding Medicaid. If the state funds it, Missouri will be on track to receive more than $1 billion in federal incentives. 

As lawmakers continue their debate on whether to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion in Missouri, pediatricians say lack of access to high-quality health care can lead to long-lasting impacts for children.

If a child is without health insurance at an early age, said Dr. Kristin Sohl, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Missouri chapter, they may not have a primary-care provider keeping track of developmental milestones – walking, talking, eating, growing – and it may be more difficult to set them on the right path later if they missed or skipped over any steps.

“As a pediatrician, the sooner we can identify the things that are affecting growth and development and start to really guide and support that child and that family, the better,” she said, “so certainly a lot of things do ride on access.”

Sohl said preventive care for the tens of thousands of uninsured kids in Missouri – many in rural or underserved communities – would make a big difference for the state’s healthcare system.

Sohl adds when health issues go untreated – from nutrition to asthma, to developmental disabilities – the costs associated with them increase. She says appropriate interventions at the right stages can improve outcomes as kids grow into adulthood.

“When it’s been years down the road, and someone’s had to delay the care that they needed, certainly those are the costs that we’re pushing off,” she said. “They’re going to eventually need to be paid, and the costs are much less when we prevent and work together early.”

The Missouri House of Representatives recently passed a budget without the $130 million needed from the state to fund expansion. It’s now up to the state Senate to decide whether to put the funds back in. Sohl said she wants lawmakers to take their cue from the voters, who made their support clear by approving the ballot measure to expand Medicaid last August.