A statewide coalition called Healthcare for Missouri wants voters to decide whether the state expands Medicaid. A signature petition drive is underway at www.healthcareformissouri.org where you can add your name to this 2020 ballot initiative.
Healthcare for Missouri is a growing coalition of doctors, nurses, patients, business executives, and healthcare supporters. They need to collect 172,000 signatures to place the question on the November 2020 ballot.
“Currently, we are paying for health care in the most expensive way possible, so when families can’t afford insurance and they end up in a crisis situation because they haven’t been able to take their insulin – or even if they have an emergency episode, like cardiac arrest or other threatening conditions – we end up footing the bill through state and local taxes but also through higher insurance premiums,” said Connie Farrow, spokeswoman for Healthcare for Missouri. “By expanding Medicaid, we can fix this and we can get Missourians access to care and save money at the same time.”
Missouri is one of only 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, which would bring federal dollars back into the state for the health insurance program for persons who earn up to $18,000 annually. Healthcare for Missouri estimates 200,000 Missourians would be eligible for the health coverage if the state expanded Medicaid.
“Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do for the people of our state. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well,” Rick Stevens, president of Christian Hospital, stated when the campaign launched September 4. “All Missourians need access to basic health services and life-saving care. That’s why we’re launching our campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.”
Healthcare for Missouri said those uninsured Missourians — including farmers, service workers, and small business employees — would be eligible to receive healthcare if voters approve Medicaid expansion. Rural as well as urban folks understand what’s at stake for everyone.
“They are feeling it when you have to drive 125 miles to get to a hospital – all of the sudden, this issue becomes urgent for you,” Farrow said. Nine rural hospitals have closed in Missouri since 2014.
Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association, one of the organizations supporting the effort, said rural areas have been hit particularly hard due to the fact that Missouri has yet to expand Medicaid.
“Hospital closures in rural communities have increased the distance to lifesaving care for Missourians suffering from traumatic injuries, stroke and heart attack,” said Kuhn. “Minutes count in medical emergencies. Medicaid expansion will help maintain access to emergency care in rural Missouri — benefiting those gaining coverage and all rural residents.”
Expanding who is eligible for Medicaid would help Missourians who are caught in the middle – those who earn too much to qualify for existing Medicaid and earn too little to be able to afford private insurance.
“These are individuals who are hardworking. They are going to their jobs and in some cases, they are going to two jobs, but they simply don’t have health care through their traditional employer, and yet they don’t make enough to afford it on their own,” Farrow said. “These truly are people who are trying to do everything right but they’re just not able to afford health care, and, in some cases, they’re also seniors – older citizens who are kind of at that end of their working career where they don’t qualify for Medicare yet, but they’re still working part-time jobs.”
Passing Medicaid expansion will bring home more than a billion of Missourians’ tax dollars from Washington, D.C. every year to keep rural hospitals open, boost the state’s economy, and deliver healthcare to people who have lower-paying jobs that don’t come with insurance, according to the group. Expanding Medicaid would make health coverage available to those making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (less than $18,000 a year for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three). A study conducted by researchers at Washington University found that expanding Medicaid in Missouri would save $932 million by 2024. A recent financial analysis conducted by the state also found that expansion could save up to a billion dollars by 2024. Momentum is building and Farrow said Medicaid expansion in Missouri has been a long time coming.
“I think people really understand that right now, we have a crisis in our state where too many Missourians are slipping through the cracks in our health care system and they’re being forced to choose between paying for lifesaving care and putting food on the table or making the mortgage payment on their home,” Farrow said. “The families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to afford coverage on their own on the Healthcare Exchange. There has been a tremendous amount of interest in this, and we feel good. We’re in it to win it.”
For more information and in addition to the online signup, click the Events tab at healthcareformissouri.org to find a petition signing event near you from throughout the state.