Advocates say Missouri Medicaid expansion is helping citizens, saving jobs

Medicaid Expansion in Missouri

With health care as a hot topic of debate in the contest for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat, attention is being drawn back to the state’s Medicaid expansion.

Missourians voted in a referendum in 2020 to amend the state constitution to expand the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. The following spring, Attorney General Eric Schmitt sided with expansion opponents in a lawsuit that eventually found its way to the state Supreme Court. In July, a unanimous high court decision restored the will of the voters and MO HealthNet was expanded.

Richard von Glahn, organizing director for Missouri Jobs with Justice, said the Medicaid expansion is injecting billions of dollars into the state’s economy while ensuring hundreds of thousands of people. “It will protect rural hospitals, it will protect jobs in the health care industry, and it will provide lifesaving care to the people of this state,” von Glahn contended. “It is, frankly, good policy to have more people covered by health insurance.”

Incentives under the Affordable Care Act have the state covering 10% of the cost of the expansion while the federal government provides the rest.

After years of legislative inaction on the issue, advocates turned to a ballot initiative and collected more than 300,000 signatures to put the matter before voters. The measure passed with 53% of the vote, and von Glahn argued the episode illustrates politics in the state is broken. “The fact that we had to do this through a ballot initiative shows that there was something wrong,” von Glahn stressed. “And for every elected official who hadn’t moved the policy forward, I think you have to look at what voters did and see that they were on the wrong side of what the people of this state wanted.”

The Medicaid expansion extended eligibility to adults 19 to 64 with incomes less than 133% of the federal poverty level. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported more than 209,000 Missourians have signed up.