Protesting Parson

Protesters marched against Missouri Gov. Mike Parson for his opposition to abortion rights in downtown St. Louis on Thursday, May 30.

Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American

Governor Mike Parson, who will have a Democratic opponent in November, placed the Medicaid expansion initiative on the August 4 primary ballot. If approved, it would expand Medicaid eligibility to those who work, but don’t make enough to afford health insurance coverage. Expansion of Medicaid in Missouri would provide health insurance coverage to another 230,000 residents.

Parson claimed putting the voter initiative in a lower-turnout primary election was fiscally responsible.

“At a time when our state is undergoing a major health, economic and budget crisis, we need to know exactly where we stand when it comes to a massive spending initiative,” Parson claimed at a May 26 press briefing.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who will oppose Parson for governor on the November 3 ballot, said Parson is trying to help himself.

“He knows that Medicaid Expansion is more popular than he is in a general election, so he hopes that a smaller electorate will give him a better chance of misleading the voters and defeating it,” Galloway said in a statement.

Parson cited research from Pew Charitable Trusts, saying Missouri is a top-five state for general revenue spending on Medicaid. The state estimates it will need an additional $88 million in general revenue through Fiscal Year 2021 due to COVID-19. “Pass or fail, it is important that we understand the implications of Medicaid expansion as soon as possible,” Parson said. “Placing the initiative on the August ballot will give us more time to prepare and account for the outcome in our state budget.” 

Medicaid is a federal-state jointly funded program, and Parson failed to mention that 90 percent of the total cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility comes from the federal government, not the state’s general fund. It is a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which extended Medicaid eligibility to all adults under age 65 (including parents and adults without dependent children) with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. To diminish the financial burden of covering more Medicaid-eligible individuals, the ACA stipulates that the federal government would cover the full cost of Medicaid expansion for each state, and that federal cost-sharing reduced to 90% in 2020. Missouri is one of only 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“It’s more critical than ever that we bring $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington D.C. so that we can keep rural hospitals open, protect thousands of health care jobs, and help essential workers access the care they deserve,” said A. J. Bockelman, campaign manager for Healthcare Missouri, which led the petition drive to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot.

A decommissioned Medicaid Ambulance Response Vehicle began its statewide tour with medical personnel on Tuesday, May 26 to build support for Medicaid expansion, making several stops in Springfield.

“An early August election will allow Missouri voters to more quickly decide this critical health care issue, so that our tax dollars are creating jobs and strengthening the Missouri economy,” said Dr. Kamile Johnson of the Kansas City Care Health Clinic. “Nearly 350,000 Missourians asked for this vote, and Healthcare for Missouri welcomes this opportunity to accelerate our state’s sorely needed recovery.”

Dr. Kayce Morton, a Jordan Valley Community Health Center pediatrician, said with the global pandemic, access to healthcare is more important than ever.

“It’s even more urgent now that we expand Medicaid to keep our rural hospitals open, bring billions of our tax dollars home from Washington, and help hundreds of thousands of hardworking Missourians and their families gain coverage,” Morton said.

The tour has socially distant visits planned throughout the state.

“Our campaign has already hit the ground running,” said Dr. Blair Thedinger, assistant medical officer at KC Care. “We’ll now be visiting every nook and cranny of this state over the next 70 days to get our message out.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Parson and his fellow Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion for purely political reasons, putting partisan ideology ahead of the health and welfare of Missourians.

“It took an initiative petition to remove them from the equation so voters can take this long-overdue action,” Quade said.

“Medicaid expansion has always enjoyed widespread support among Missourians, and right now it is more important than ever. The only thing the governor’s crassly partisan move changes is Medicaid expansion will be enshrined in the Missouri Constitution three months earlier than expected.”

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