Local physicians, nurses, business leaders and law enforcement officers attended Gov. Jay Nixon's visit to Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City on Thursday in support of the governor's plan to bring Missouri tax dollars back to the state through Medicaid expansion.
Capital Region Medical Center and St. Mary's Health Center's presidents, Ed Farnsworth and Brent VanConia, both said Medicaid expansion would grant patients more access to health care.
"Doctors can more easily see patients," Farnsworth said. "It will also result in more patients getting to see more doctors."
Nixon's plan is in line with a bill rejected by a House committee last month. It would add additional funding for Medicaid expansion to the 2014 state budget and would expand coverage to as many as 300,000 Missourians within the next three years by expanding eligibility requirements to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
A study by the University of Missouri found that strengthening Medicaid in the state would create 24,000 new jobs in 2014.
The Missouri Hospital Association estimates 9,000 Missouri jobs will be lost if the opportunity to expand Medicaid is passed. An increase of $1 billion in health insurance premiums will also impact Missouri families and businesses.
"Sending our tax dollars to these other states will hurt our economy, increase costs for families and businesses and weaken public safety," Nixon said. "That is why we must move forward now and strengthen Medicaid the Missouri way.
"The costs of inaction are simply too high."
Nixon said he's ready to work to find a solution for Missouri's health care system.
He commends Rep. Jay Barnes for working on a Medicaid transformation bill, but worries about three specific challenges he believes the bill presents. Nixon doesn't like that the bill cuts health care for kids, cuts health care for pregnant women and doesn't reach the 138 percent poverty threshold.
Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said his bill doesn't cut health care, it only reduces Medicaid eligibility. Eligibility reductions are contingent on the existence of subsidies, which he said would empower participants to pick their own private health insurance plans.
"Research shows people get better health results from private plans than Medicaid, even controlling for income level," Barnes said.
His plan would make the added cost of a subsidized plan for a child zero.
Nixon said he believes Barnes' proposed bill is a step in the right direction.
"Certainly we want to look at all kinds of reforms, things we can do to make our health care system better," Nixon said. "We're ready to sit at the table, ready to work and I think Rep. Barnes is, too.
"The best way for us to get to reforms that reflect Missouri is to take these dollars and get these reforms," he said.