EDITORIAL: Fund Medicaid expansion

The Joplin Globe, Mo.
·3 min read

Apr. 17—The funding of Medicaid expansion in Missouri is hanging in the balance.

The House has refused to put the funding — nearly $1.6 billion, with about $119 million coming from state funds and most of the remaining provided by the federal government, according to the bill that was voted down — into its draft of the state's budget for next fiscal year.

This despite the fact that Medicaid expansion was approved by Missourians last year with more than 53% of the statewide vote.

Lawmakers opposed to funding the expansion have said it could stress the state's budget and that Medicaid should be reserved only for a select group of people, including the elderly and people with disabilities. The budget is now in the Senate's hands, and it remains to be seen what senators will do.

A lot has been said in recent weeks about lawmakers' refusal to fund Medicaid expansion, with many, like us, who oppose their actions calling it a slap in the face to voters. The Globe's editorial board previously called it "undemocratic" and a "violation of the oath" lawmakers took to support the state constitution, and we continue to believe that they are blatantly and wrongly going against the will of the voters in not supporting this funding.

But there's another group of people who are the real victims here: the more than 200,000 Missourians who have been promised health care coverage under the expansion.

Who are these people? They're overwhelmingly childless adults, and nearly 80% of them live in a family with at least one worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Three-quarters of them are living below the poverty line. And it's likely many of them lost their jobs (and employer-based health insurance) as unemployment soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Medical Association said.

They're also our friends, neighbors, co-workers; they are us. Southwest Missouri counties have among the highest percentage of residents who are expected to become new Medicaid enrollees, according to research presented last month by the Saint Louis University Center for Health Law Studies and the Washington University Center for Health Economics and Policy. In Jasper and Newton counties, approximately 5.6% of residents are newly eligible for Medicaid, but when you move into Barry and McDonald counties, those percentages jump to 7.4% and 9.0%, respectively, with the highest percentage in the state in McDonald County. Also in McDonald County, the number of people now eligible for Medicaid would increase by 37.2% — one of the highest jumps across Missouri.

Lawmakers should fund Medicaid expansion in Missouri not only because it upholds last year's election, but also because it's the right thing to do for this group of people who would otherwise be directly harmed by a lack of coverage. If they won't, they should look these individuals in the eye and tell them why they won't support their voter-approved health care.