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Perspective: Medicaid expansion is good for Missouri

Perspective: Medicaid expansion is good for Missouri

July 25th, 2019 in Opinion

On July 12, the Jefferson City News Tribune published an editorial written by Travis Fitzwater, the state representative for Missouri’s 49th District, about the expansion of Medicaid, where he claimed that expanding Medicaid would be bad for Missouri.

The actual truth is that expanding Medicaid would benefit Missouri residents, increase worker productivity and boost our state economy.

The claim that expanding Medicaid would somehow harm pregnant women and children is just wrong. Under Republican leadership, Missouri has removed more than 80,000 children from Medicaid rolls, causing families to choose between taking a sick child to the doctor or buying groceries. Demonizing the working-class as not being worthy of affordable health care because they are “able-bodied,” i.e. have a full-time low paying or minimum wage job that doesn’t provide health insurance benefits to them or their family, and that if they were provided Medicaid would only take away from individuals with pre-existing health conditions is just wrong and counter-productive.

The argument that expanding Medicaid would be a financial burden to Missouri taxpayers is inaccurate. Other states that have expanded Medicaid, and thus received millions of federal dollars to cover the major portion of the Medicaid costs, have seen significant improvements in their economy, state revenue and general well-being. Montana, a state that expanded Medicaid, had a surplus of $350-$400 million of new revenue added to its economy. Because Missouri has a larger population, our state would see an even bigger increase in revenue. By expanding Medicaid, Montana expanded coverage to an additional 90,000 citizens which led to the creation of more than 30,000 new jobs. If Missouri were to expand the program, an estimated 220,000 additional eligible citizens would qualify for and receive medical coverage. This could potentially create more than 100,000 new jobs. It would undoubtedly increase worker productivity. It would reduce individuals incurring medical debt allowing them more discretionary spending.

The states that chose to expand Medicaid, including our neighboring states Arkansas and Illinois, actually reduced state spending on health care because of the increase in federal funds. Currently, Missouri tax revenue pays for about 25 percent of our state’s Medicaid costs. If Missouri were to expand Medicaid the federal government will cover 90 percent of the cost of expansion, which would reduce Missouri’s tax revenue contribution to Medicaid by roughly 15 percent. The argument that expanding Medicaid would cost the state too much is not only wrong, but in fact, it’s just the opposite.

So if it won’t cost the state more money to expand Medicaid or cause pregnant women and children to lose coverage, why does the legislature continue to vote against expansion? Why do those in the legislature continue to demonize Medicaid and continue to actively speak out against the idea of the working poor being eligible for health insurance, especially when the majority of that cost will be paid by the federal government?

Do not let our state legislature and those who control it promote dissension and pit us against each other. My hope is that the people of Missouri will see through this scare tactic, learn the real facts, and support each other by showing up at the polls and voting for the best interest of all Missourians.

Joshua Dunne is the acting chair of Cole County Democratic Central Committee.