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Rally braves cold to plead for Medicaid

by Hunter Woodall/For the News Tribune | January 7, 2015 at 5:50 a.m. | Updated January 7, 2015 at 5:50 a.m.

Underneath the sign of the Capitol Plaza Hotel, about 50 people shivered and nearly spilled into the street as they held bright red signs with a short message: "Close the coverage gap. Expand Medicaid now!"

Roughly 12 hours before Gov. Jay Nixon held his annual prayer breakfast at the hotel, community and faith leaders gathered at the same location to "demand action" for Medicaid expansion in Missouri.

Speaking at Tuesday night's news conference, Missouri Medicaid Coalition Director Michelle Trupiano said Missouri can't afford to not expand Medicaid.

"It's time to stop the politics, and it's time to put people first," Trupiano said.

According to the coalition, about 300,000 Missourians are in health care limbo due to the lack of health care expansion within the state. Those Missourians don't make enough money to receive subsidies from the Affordable Care Act, but they also don't have a low enough income to qualify for Medicaid under the present standards.

The Rev. Emmett Baker, a member of Missouri Faith Voices, talked to the crowd about how the lack of health care expansion impacted him directly. Baker said his daughter died because she was among the 300,000 Missourians without coverage.

"I do not think that it should continue to be that we lose lives in this state simply because our legislature won't pass Medicaid expansion," Baker said.

According to the coalition, about 700 people across the state "die early each year" because they don't have access to the necessary health insurance.

Among the crowd was St. Louis resident Tony Harris, who said all Missourians are entitled to health care and the other benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

"We want to send a message to the legislature, as well as the public, to make them aware that this is something that all industrial nations have, and we're lacking it," Harris said.

The Rev. John Bennett, vice chair of Missouri Faith Voices, said it is the legislature's "moral imperative" to pass Medicaid expansion.

"Expanding basic health coverage to 300,000, hard working, low-income Missourians is indeed the morally right thing to do," Bennett said.


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